By R.L. Bynum
Scoreless in the previous 13 innings, Carolina needed a spark to break out of an offensive funk.
Enter Mac Horvath.
The junior third baseman swung so hard that he lunged over the plate during his backswing. His fourth-inning drive went 416 feet, well over the left-field fence, for a grand slam and flipped the Tar Heels’ fortunes in a game they had to have.
Horvath belted two home runs and drove in seven in a 12–8 victory at English Field in Blacksburg, Va., to snap a five-game ACC losing streak. After only five hits in the series opener, UNC collected 14 Saturday afternoon.
Carolina (27–16, 10–11 ACC), which lost Friday’s opener 7–0, faces the Hokies (25–15, 11–11) in the series finale at 7 p.m. Saturday (ACC Network).
One inning after that blast off Virginia Tech pitcher Drue Hackenberg, Horvath hit a 426-foot three-run blast to left field off the Hokies ace in the eight-run fourth. That was the most UNC runs in an inning this season.
Horvath’s fourth two-homer game of the season gave him 18 homers for the season. His 41 career homers are the fourth-most in program history. His big day came two games after a two-homer, eight-RBI effort in Tuesday’s 18–2 home victory over UNCW. He went 3 for 6 and also doubled.
Hackenberg (loser, 4–5) lasted a season-low 3⅔ innings and gave up eight runs (tied for a season-high) runs.
UNC redshirt freshman left-hander Dalton Pence started for the second time this week. He struck out four, giving up four hits and one run in two innings against UNCW. In his first career weekend start Saturday, he threw three innings, yielding three hits and three runs with a career-high five strikeouts and retired the last 11 batters he faced.
In his second relief appearance since being taken out of the starting rotation, Max Carlson (winner, 3–1) struck out the side in the fourth inning but gave up three fifth-inning runs.
Carolina reliever Kevin Eaise pitched 3⅓ innings, giving up four hits, two runs, four walks and two strikeouts. He induced a ground out to escape a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the eighth inning.
After he gave up two runs in the ninth inning, right-hander Matt Poston came on with two on and two outs. After issuing a walk to load the bases, Poston struck out Gehrig Ebel to end the game and pick up his third save of the season.
Sophomore left fielder Chad Holbrook hit a two-run single in the big fourth inning.
Hokies reliever Peter Sakellaris silenced UNC’s bats with 5⅓ four-hit shutout relief innings to end the game, including striking out Horvath twice.
NOTES — Redshirt freshman Casey Cook reached base for the 32nd consecutive game, the second-longest streak by a UNC freshman since 1999. … Horvath passed Sean Farrell, Jarrett Shearin, Cookie Massey and Scott Johnson on the UNC career home run list, and is one behind Chad Flack’s total of 42 (2005–08), which is third. Devy Bell (57; 1984–87) and Chris Cox (49; 1990–93) lead the list. … There were 19 walks and 45 baserunners in the game. … UNC entered Saturday night’s game 82–32–2 all-time against the Hokies, including 32–16 in Blacksburg.
UNC 12, Virginia Tech 8
|17||Friday||10–8 L||Seton Hall||Home||0–1|
|18||Saturday||11–2 W||Seton Hall||Home||1–1|
|19||Sunday||4–2 W||Seton Hall||Home||2–1|
|24||Friday||6–5 L||No. 15 East Carolina||Greenville||4–2|
|26||Sunday||6–5 L||No. 15 East Carolina||Home||4–3|
|4||Saturday||7–5 W||Stony Brook||Home||8–3|
|5||Sunday||15–4 W||Stony Brook||Home||9–3|
|8||Wed.||15–5 W||Penn State||Home||11–3|
|10||Friday||7–3 L||No. 11 Virginia||Home||11–4,|
|11||Saturday||8–4 L||No. 11 Virginia||Home||11–5,|
|11||Saturday||6–0 W||No. 11 Virginia||Home||12–5,|
|15||Wed.||16–2 W||High Point||Home||14–5|
|17–7 W||Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh||15–5, |
|21||Tuesday||6–4 W||N.C. A&T||Home||16–5|
|23||Thursday||6–3 W||Duke||Home||17–5, |
|24||Friday||8–5 L||Duke||Home||17–6, |
|25||Saturday||5–3 W||Duke||Home||18–6, |
|28||Tuesday||12–7 L||No. 9 Coastal Carolina||Home||18–7|
|31||Friday||10–8 W||Notre Dame||South Bend, Ind.||19–7, |
|2||Sunday||5–2 W||Notre Dame||South Bend, Ind.||20–7, |
|2||Sunday||9–1 L||Notre Dame||South Bend, Ind||20–8, |
|4||Tuesday||5–0 L||South Carolina||Charlotte||20–9|
|6||Thursday||8–1 W||Georgia Tech||Atlanta||21–9, |
|7||Friday||10–6 W||Georgia Tech||Atlanta||22–9, |
|7||Friday||8–4 L||Georgia Tech||Atlanta||22–10, |
|13||Thursday||5–4 L||No. 8 Miami||Home||23–11, |
|9–8 W, |
|No. 8 Miami||Home||24–11, |
|15||Saturday||4–3 L||No. 8 Miami||Home||24–12, |
|Boston College||Home||25–13, |
|22||Saturday||9–4 L||Boston College||Home||25–14, |
|23||Sunday||6–2 L||Boston College||Home||25–15, |
|28||Friday||7–0 L||Virginia Tech||Blacksburg, Va.||26–16, |
|29||Saturday||12–8 W||Virginia Tech||Blacksburg, Va.||27–16, |
|29||Saturday||13–7 W||Virginia Tech||Blacksburg, Va.||28–16, |
|2||Tuesday||6–5 L||No. 11 Campbell||Home||28–17|
|3||Wed.||2–1 W||No. 15 East Carolina||Greenville||29–17|
|11||Thursday||9–8 W||N.C. State||Home||31–17, |
|12||Friday||9–3 W||N.C. State||Home||32–17, |
|13||Saturday||12–2 W||N.C. State||Home||33–17, |
|16||Tuesday||8–6 L||No. 9 Coastal Carolina||Conway, S.C.||33–18|
|18||Thursday||14–7 L||No. 3 Clemson||Clemson, S.C.||33–19, |
|19||Friday||5–4 L||No. 3 Clemson||Clemson, S.C.||33–20, |
|20||Saturday||3–1 L||No. 3 Clemson||Clemson, S.C.||33–21, |
|23||Tuesday||11–5 W||Georgia Tech||Durham||34–21|
|25||Thursday||10–2 W||No. 11 Virginia||Durham||35–21|
|27||Saturday||10–4 L||Semifinal vs.|
No. 3 Clemson
|Terre Haute Regional|
|2||Friday||5–4 L||Iowa||Terre Haute, Ind.||35–23|
|3||Saturday||5–0 W||Wright State||Terre Haute, Ind.||36–23|
|Iowa||Terre Haute, Ind.||36–24|
Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications