GREENSBORO — Baserunners were easy to come by, but runs were difficult, yet defending ACC champion Virginia found a way to win Thursday, edging Clemson 3-2 on the second day of the ACC Baseball Championship.
In recent years, the tournament has brought out the best in the Cavaliers. Virginia won the league championship in 2009 and 2011, and with Thursday’s win over the Tigers, it has won 12 of its last 13 tournament games.
“Well, college baseball games are hard to win, certainly games in this league,” Virginia coach Brian O’Connor said. “Both teams obviously deserved to win. I was wondering who was going to step up to do what it took to win it.”
For most of the game, Virginia junior Branden Kline and Clemson freshman Daniel Gossett pitched in and out of trouble to keep their teams in the game. The two teams combined to leave 23 runners on base.
Gossett threw 62/3 innings and gave up four hits, one run, and six walks. Kline pitched seven innings, surrendered four hits, one run, and walked five. Neither figured into the decision.
Clemson took a 2-1 lead in the top of the eighth, only to give up two runs in the bottom of the inning.
Clemson reliever Mike Kent retired the first two Cavaliers batters before Brandon Downes singled to start the winning rally. Kent then hit a batter and walked a batter to load the bases before hitting Virginia shortstop Chris Taylor with a pitch to force in the tying run. Scott Firth came on to pitch, and he walked in the winning run before getting the third out.
“Daniel pitched really well for us (as a) freshman (in his) first game of the ACC tournament,” Leggett said. “We just couldn’t finish it off, and the inning implodes on us. Mike Kent has been good for us all year, and so has Firth.”
Virginia went ahead 1-0 in the third on an RBI-single by Jared King. Clemson’s Jon McGibbon homered in the sixth to tie the score. Clemson scored again in the eighth after Brad Felder reached on a third-strike passed ball, stole second and got home when Taylor made an error.
“Gossett pitched well, and we played good defense. We had a lot of opportunities offensively and didn’t do anything with them. That’s been our problem lately,” Leggett said.
“I’m proud of our guys,” O’Connor said. “This team has been opportunistic. We’ve never really pounded teams or put teams away, but we’ve done what we need to do to win.”
Once again, at tournament time.