For an old ballplayer, it sure was frustrating to watch the conclusion of the recent ACC baseball tournament game between the University of Virginia and the University of North Carolina.
The game was tightly contested, and UVa pitchers Chesdin Harrington and Andrew Abbott had held UNC to a scant two-run tie game going into the ninth inning.
As the visiting team, UVa got to bat first and loaded the bases with just one out, which presented a golden opportunity to score a go-ahead run and put serious pressure on the Tar Heels. At stake was the chance to advance in the tournament and possibly improve considerations for post-season NCAA play. You could almost see the squirming on the Carolina bench.
With bases loaded and the ninth-place hitter due to bat, one might consider a pinch hitter — especially one capable of laying down a bunt (old-school squeeze play). But no changes were made, no attempt was made to bunt the ball, and the batter struck out, for the second out and essentially blowing Virginia’s scoring advantage. The next batter grounded out to end the rally.
All was not lost and there was still hope, but the squirming on the Carolina bench was far less noticeable.
Virginia pitcher Abbott, who had done a masterly job in relief for almost four innings, walked a batter and — in spite of otherwise appearing very much in control of the situation — was removed for a new pitcher.
The new pitcher did not look very comfortable when he entered the game and had trouble locating his pitches from the start. Two more batters were walked to load the bases with one out.
Should a pitching change have been made at this point? No change was made, and the pitcher — struggling with control — hit the Heels’ pinch hitter to force in the winning run and end the Cavaliers’ season except for a meaningless next-day game with Miami.
You be the judge. Just think what might have happened for the rest of the season if Virginia had only bunted in that critical at-bat.
Lacy Lusk, Chesterfield County