For most teams, playing for a conference title the day after winning an 18-inning marathon would be too daunting a task.
North Carolina is not most teams.
Despite hitting the diamond a little over 11 hours after defeating NC State early on Sunday morning, 2-1, the Tar Heels defeated Virginia Tech 4-1 on Sunday afternoon, finishing the season as the ACC regular-season and conference-tournament champions.
The Durham Bulls tweeted a picture of the champions:
Durham Bulls @DurhamBulls
The 2013 #ACCBase Champion North Carolina Tar Heels http://t.co/mTQbI0zqsy5/26/2013, 7:50:23 PM
Pitchers Taylore Cherry and Trevor Kelley were brilliant for the Tar Heels, allowing just one run and six hits on the afternoon. Skye Bolt was given credit for two RBI on the afternoon, Landon Lassiter scored three runs and ACC Player of the Year Colin Moran reached base three times (2-for-3 with a walk).
Eddie Campbell was the tough-luck loser for Virginia Tech, allowing two runs on six hits in seven innings of work. Four errors by Virginia Tech were ultimately the difference, including three by third baseman Brendon Hayden.
North Carolina opened the scoring in the first inning. After back-to-back singles by Lassiter and Moran, Bolt appeared to ground into a surefire double play. But Alex Perez booted the chance, allowing Lassiter to score the game's opening run.
North Carolina would again benefit from an error in the third. After Lassiter doubled and Moran singled, Bolt hit a grounder down to third base. However, Hayden's throwing error to second allowed Lassiter to score from third, giving North Carolina a 2-0 lead.
Virginia Tech loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth and Chad Pinder stepped to the plate with two outs, but the slugger couldn't deliver, grounding out to shortstop.
That would end the afternoon for Cherry, who was excellent in his five innings of work, allowing just five hits, two walks and no runs.
Trouble found North Carolina again in the top of the sixth, as Virginia Tech loaded the bases after Tyler Horan doubled, Mark Zagunis reached on a throwing error by Moran and Andrew Rash was hit by a Trevor Kelley pitch. Virginia Tech would plate just runner, however, after Chad Morgan grounded into a double play and Hayden flied out to center field.
Virginia Tech hurt itself again in the bottom of the eighth. Lassiter opened the inning by reaching second after a throwing error by Hayden. Moran walked, then Bolt stepped to the plate and laid down a bunt. Hayden couldn't handle pitcher Joe Mantiply's throw to third, though, and Lassiter scored on the second error in the inning by the third baseman.
Bolt would eventually score on a Brian Holberton sacrifice fly, giving North Carolina a 4-1 lead heading into the top of the ninth.
Kelley would retire the Hokies in order of the top of the ninth, giving North Carolina the ACC title. John Manuel of Baseball America put the win in perspective for the Tar Heels:
John Manuel @johnmanuelba
North Carolina entered the year with big expectations. So far it has met them. ACC regular season & now tournament champs.5/26/2013, 7:35:21 PM
North Carolina first baseman Cody Stubbs was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.
The Tar Heels will be one of the favorites to reach and win the College World Series, while the Hokies have put the rest of the country on notice that they are not a team to be taken lightly in the postseason after an impressive run through this stacked ACC tournament.
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