In Winston Salem, N.C., the No. 4 Virginia baseball team was down to its final strike with two outs in the ninth inning but rallied for a 7-6 victory over Wake Forest Saturday afternoon at Gene Hooks Field at Wake Forest Baseball Park. Sophomore Mike Papi hit a two-out grand slam off Wake Forest closer Connor Kaden, capping a five-run, ninth-inning comeback.
Virginia (28-3, 10-3 ACC) now has won all five of its ACC series openers. Game two of the series is slated for 1 p.m. today, while the finale is set for 7 p.m. Monday and will be televised by ESPNU.
Virginia trailed 6-1 after the fourth inning, but the Cavaliers’ pitching staff shut out the Demon Deacons (17-15, 4-9) on four hits over the final five innings to set up Papi’s heroics.
The Cavaliers’ Nos. 3-through-5 hitters, freshman Joe McCarthy, sophomore Brandon Downes and Papi, had six of Virginia’s nine hits as each picked up a pair of hits. Until the ninth inning, UVa had been frustrated offensively with seven hits and eight men left on base.
UVa redshirt-junior reliever Whit Mayberry worked two scoreless innings to claim the win and improve to 3-0. Junior Kyle Crockett struck out the side in the ninth to earn his fifth save.
Virginia freshman starting pitcher Brandon Waddell had one bad inning but still went six, giving up six runs (five earned), nine hits and one walk while striking out four.
Trailing 6-2 entering the ninth, Virginia’s dramatic rally started with patience at the plate, as the Cavaliers loaded the bases with none out when reliever Nico Spezial walked the bases loaded. Jared King hit a sacrifice fly to deep right against Kaden to bring in Reed Gragnani and cut the lead to 6-3.
The Cavaliers again loaded the bases on a McCarthy infield single, but Kaden got the second out by inducing Downes to pop up. In a quick 0-2 hole, Papi fouled off a pair of pitches before cranking the next offering over the right-center field wall for a grand slam to give UVa the 7-6 advantage. It marked his third home run of the year and his second game-winner; he also hit the go-ahead solo home run in the 11th inning at Clemson on March 15.
Crockett then needed just 13 pitches to strike out the side in the bottom of the ninth.