THE FLATS – Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets erased a pair of two-run deficits, yet saw its final comeback bid fall just short in a 6-5 home loss to No. 9 North Carolina in ACC play on Friday night at Russ Chandler Stadium.
The loss drops Tech to 11-5 overall and 1-3 in the ACC, while North Carolina escapes to improve to 14-4 overall and 3-1 in conference play.
After fighting back to erase a two-run lead in the second and again in the sixth, the Jackets put the winning run on base in the ninth yet were able to only score one run in the final inning in the 6-5 loss.
Junior third baseman Trevor Craport was 2-for-4 with a solo home run and two runs scored as he extended his on-base streak to 16 straight games. Catcher Joey Bart was 1-for-4 with a home run, his team-high ninth on the season, while both Keenan Innis (1-for-4, RBI) and Ryan Peurifoy (1-for-4, 2 RBIs) each had a hit on the night.
Freshman pitcher Xzavion Curry (3-2) was saddled with the loss, as the right-handed hurler gave up five runs, four of which were earned, on eight hits and two walks. He also struck out four batters in six-plus innings of work, his longest outing of the season.
The Tar Heels rode the right arm of J.B. Bukauskas (3-0) for the win, as the junior struck out a career-high 14 hitters over 7.0 innings. Tech recorded four runs, two of which were earned, on three hits against the righty, before facing Josh Hiatt (6) who recorded the save allowing one run over the final two innings of the contest.
Offensively, UNC was led by Kyle Datres who went 3-for-5 with a home run, an RBI and two runs scored, while both Logan Warmoth (2-for-5, RBI) and Tyler Lynn (1-for-4, RBI) each homered in the game as well.
The Tar Heels got on the scoreboard first in the top of the second, as Datres led off the inning with a single up the middle and scored two batters later on a double to left center field by Cody Roberts. Roberts, who advanced to third on an error by Tech on his base hit, then scored on a sacrifice fly to left field to put the visitors in front early at 2-0.
Tech didn’t take long to get the two runs back, as a UNC error, a walk and a sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third with one out. After a strikeout, Peurifoy singled up the middle to clear the bases and tie the game up at 2-2 after two complete innings.
Following a 1-2-3 inning by both teams in the third, the Tar Heels retook the lead on a solo home run off the bat of Lynn to put the score at 3-2 midway through the fourth inning.
North Carolina doubled up its lead at 4-2 on a solo home run by Datres in the sixth, yet the Jackets one-upped the Tar Heels in the bottom half of the inning with back-to-back solo shots by Bart and Craport to knot the game up again at 4-4.
In the top of the seventh, the Tar Heels pushed across the go ahead run on an RBI single by Zack Gahagan that took a lucky hop over the shortstop’s glove and rolled into center field to again take a one-run lead at 5-4.
The Yellow Jackets went down in order in both the seventh and eighth, and after a solo home run by Warmoth in the ninth gave the visitors a 6-4 lead, Tech refused to quit and put the winning run on base in its final at bat.
Down 6-4, Craport led off the bottom of the ninth with a double to left. After a walk to Kel Johnson put runners on first and second, a hit-in-run play saw a swing and miss at the plate and an out at third on a caught stealing attempt for the first out of the inning.
Following a strikeout for out number two, Innis kept the Jackets alive with a single to center field to score pitch runner Carter Hall from second to put Tech down just one at 6-5.
Peurifoy, who had two RBIs already in the game, hit a hard ground right over the bag at second where the UNC second baseman mishandled the grounder and allowed all Tech runners to be safe.
However, UNC’s Hiatt got the final out via a strikeout to halt the Jackets’ comeback bid and help the Tar Heels escape with the 6-5 win.
The Jackets (11-5, 1-3 ACC) and Tar Heels (14-4, 3-1 ACC) return to action tomorrow afternoon at 1 p.m. at Russ Chandler Stadium for game two of the three-game weekend series.