UNC upsets No. 12 Cavs to make semis behind Knapp, offensive explosion

By R.L. Bynum

DURHAM — Neither Carolina nor Virginia started their top pitchers, but junior Tar Heels right-hander Jake Knapp performed like an ace on a day when UNC poured on the offense.

Knapp struck out five in 5⅔ innings and sophomore left-hander Dalton Pence threw 3⅓ shutout relief innings as No. 7-seed UNC beat No. 12-ranked and No. 2-seed Virginia 10–2 at Durham Bulls Athletic Park to earn a spot in Saturday’s ACC tournament semifinals and snap the Cavaliers’ 10-game win streak.

The Tar Heels (35-21) face No. 6-ranked and No. 3-seed Clemson (41–17) at 1 p.m. Saturday in one semifinal. The Tigers advanced with a 4–1 victory Friday over Boston College.

Junior catcher Tomas Frick led the 10-hit attack, going 3 for 5 with a three-run double that was inches from being a grand slam.

Knapp (winner, 5–3), who spent most of the season starting on Sundays or Tuesdays, gave up only five hits and two runs (one earned) while walking two, throwing a season-high 105 pitches (previous high 97 against Boston College).

“Jake was outstanding,” UNC coach Scott Forbes said. “He made some really big pitches we needed to get us back in the dugout. He’s gotten better all year.”

Knapp was part of a combined shutout in a 7–0 March 11 win that is the only time Virginia has been shut out all season.

“I felt like he was going to match up good with Virginia; he matched up good with him at home,” Forbes said. “But I also knew he was a much better and a more complete pitcher now than he was then.”

Virginia (45–12) used its No. 1 starter, Nick Parker, in Wednesday’s meaningless game for ACC tournament purposes — a 15–1 7-inning win over Georgia Tech — instead of saving him for battle with UNC.

Junior left-hander Connelly Early (loser, 10–2) started instead and didn’t have his usual control. He gave up three hits, four runs (three earned), with two strikeouts in four innings. Early’s four walks tied his season-high and were more than in his previous five outings combined (three).

Knapp had good command, mixing his fastball, changeup and slider to keep the Cavaliers off stride, continually challenging them.

“When I’ve been in the zone, my stuff has been good this year,” said Knapp, who reviewed tape of his regular-season start,  start (which was his career ACC start) against Virginia before the game with pitching coach Bryant Gaines. “I walked the first guy [in the March game]; I was little amped up. But there’s definitely things that we took from that and put into the game plan for today.”

Frick was impressed with both pitchers.

“[Knapp’s] finally got a feel for changeup, he’s attacking hitters, not really getting behind this much,” Frick said. “As soon as [Pence] came up to the mound, I saw his eyes, I knew he would attack guys.”

Frick said that his eighth-inning drive off the yellow line atop the fencing above the Blue Monster in left-center field for a three-run double might have been the hardest ball he’s ever hit.

“I hit it and I kind of peeked at it,” Frick said. “I saw the big wall and I was like, there’s a good shot at being a hit.”

Frick played in every game during Carolina’s seven-game ACC tournament win streak and says he’s not surprised that the Tar Heels played better in tournaments.

“I just think it’s the postseason. Everyone just raises their level of play,” Frick said. “And we’re happy to be home as well. I think that’s a huge factor this year, especially after those bus rides we had all week last week.”

The teams traded unearned runs in the first three innings.

Junior center fielder Mac Horvath gave UNC a lead when he walked after falling behind 0 and 2 with one out and stole second in the first inning. Junior second baseman Jackson Van De Brake hit a grounder up the middle that went through the legs of Virginia second baseman Henry Godbout to score Horvath.

Van De Brake made a terrific catch hustling to center field in the bottom of the inning (above) with Horvath running in, when Knapp struck out two. However, Van De Brake’s error in the third inning tied it. With Godbout on second after a single and a steal, he scored when Ethan O’Donnell’s two-out grounder went off the tip of Van De Brake’s glove for only his ninth error of the season.

Carolina retook the lead, 4–1, in the fourth with one out on junior first baseman Hunter Stokely’s RBI single to right field, junior DH Alberto Osuna’s RBI double off the Blue Monster in left field and junior shortstop Colby Wilkerson’s sacrifice fly.

“I didn’t feel like we ever just went quickly and had bad at-bats,” Forbes said. “I felt like if a guy didn’t have a great at-bat, the next guy had a good at-bat.”

Knapp struck out Godbout to get out of the fourth inning with two men on after what would have been an inning-ending double play if the umpire hadn’t called time out. With runners at first and second and one out, Van De Brake bobbled a grounder and threw to Wilkerson at second to get the baserunner Kyle Teel from first, and tagged the other runner for what appeared to be a double play. That led to a lengthy discussion (below) between Forbes and an umpire.

“[Wilkerson] stepped on the bag,” Forbes said. “Coby thought he had tagged Teel when he got off the bag. And he had gotten off the bag, but the umpire said he had called time. The fact that he had called time, they got it right.”

Junior left fielder Patrick Alvarez, who had singled, got thrown out at the plate after an Osuna double for the final out in the sixth inning.

One out after Ethan Anderson cut Virginia’s deficit to two with a one-out solo home run in the bottom of that inning, Pence relieved Knapp and got out of the inning with a pop out.

Virginia intentionally walked Horvath in the next two innings, but Horvath scored both times after Van De Brake followed with a walk and also scored.

“The two situations that really kind of created separation in the ball game were the two times that we walked Horvath,” Virginia coach Brian O’Connor said. “That’s out of respect for him. I think he’s one of the great hitters in our league. It’s no disrespect to anybody that hits after him.”

Carolina scored three runs in the seventh inning off two Cavaliers relievers. With the bases loaded and one out, the Heels got a two-run single from Frick and an RBI single from Alvarez.

Pence finished the final 3⅓ innings, giving up two hits, no walks and striking out three to pick up his first save.

NOTES — UNC advanced to the semifinals for the fourth time in the last six ACC tournaments (also in 2017, 2019 and 2022), and has won two of the past three (2019 and 2022). … Carolina’s seven consecutive ACC tournament games are the most since winning seven in a row from 1983 to 1985. … Forbes said his plan is to start junior right-hander Connor Bovair on Saturday. … That was the most runs against Virginia since its 17–5 loss to Duke on April 28. … Carolina is 91–71 all-time in the ACC tournament, and 7–1 under Forbes. … Wake Forest earned a semifinal berth by winning its tournament debut, 10–2, over Pittsburgh. The No. 1 Deacs will face Miami, which beat N.C. State 4–2 on Thursday night, in the 1 p.m. semifinal. … Carolina is the No. 2 seed in the Columbia, S.C., regional in the latest D1 Baseball NCAA tournament projection, with South Carolina as the host, Grand Canyon as the No. 3 seed and UNCW as the No. 4 seed. College Sports Madness also projects that destination but with Southern Cal as the No. 3 seed and Fairfield as the No. 4 seed. Baseball America projects UNC as the No. 2 seed in Conway, S.C., with Coastal Carolina as host, Southern Cal as the No. 3 seed and Maine as the No. 4 seed. The NCAA will announce the field at noon Monday. … The Tar Heels are 17–12 in 10 ACC tournaments at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, and have won seven consecutive games (2018: Georgia Tech; 2019: Virginia, Miami, Boston College and Georgia Tech; 2023: Georgia Tech and Virginia). … UNC leads the all-time series with Virginia 190–118–4.

UNC 10, No. 12 Virginia 2

ACC tournament

At Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Pool play
All games on ACC Network
Tuesday’s results

No. 6-seed Boston College 11, No. 10 Virginia Tech 7
No. 7 North Carolina 11, No. 11 Georgia Tech 5
No. 9 N.C. State 8, No. 5 Duke 7, 11 innings
Wednesday’s results
No. 12 Pittsburgh 9, No. 8 Notre Dame 5
No. 2 Virginia 15, No. 11 Georgia Tech 1, 7 innings
No. 3 Clemson 14, No. 10 Virginia Tech 5
Thursday’s results
No. 1 Wake Forest 10, No. 12 Pittsburgh 2
No. 7 North Carolina 10, No. 2 Virginia 2
No. 4 Miami 4, No. 9 N.C. State 2
Friday’s results
No. 3 Clemson 4, No. 6 Boston College 1
No. 4 Miami 7, No. 5 Duke 6
No. 1 Wake Forest 7, No. 8 Notre Dame 5
Saturday’s semifinals
No. 3 Clemson 10, No. 7 North Carolina 4
No. 4 Miami 7, No. 1 Wake Forest 2
Sunday’s championship at Durham Bulls Athletic Park
No. 3 Clemson 11, No. 4 Miami 5
Pool A
Wake Forest 2–0
Pittsburgh 1–1
Notre Dame 0–2
Pool B
North Carolina 2–0
Virginia 1–1
Georgia Tech 0–2
Pool C
Clemson 2–0
Boston College 1–1
Virginia Tech 0–2
Pool D
Miami 2–0
N.C. State 1–1
Duke 0–2

(current rank)
17Friday10–8 LSeton HallHome0–1
18Saturday11–2 WSeton HallHome1–1
19Sunday4–2 WSeton HallHome2–1
21Tuesday14–2 WRadfordHome3–1
22Wed.10–0 WLongwoodHome4–1
24Friday6–5 LNo. 15 East CarolinaGreenville4–2
26Sunday6–5 LNo. 15 East CarolinaHome4–3
28Tuesday10–4 WVCUHome5–3
1Wed.14–10 WVCUHome6–3
3Friday3–2 W
11 innings
Stony BrookHome7–3
4Saturday7–5 WStony BrookHome8–3
5Sunday15–4 WStony BrookHome9–3
7Tuesday8–4 W,
5 innings
Western CarolinaHome10–3
8Wed.15–5 WPenn StateHome11–3
10Friday7–3 LNo. 11 VirginiaHome11–4,
0–1 ACC
11Saturday8–4 LNo. 11 VirginiaHome11–5,
0–2 ACC
11Saturday6–0 WNo. 11 VirginiaHome12–5,
1–2 ACC
14Tuesday16–3 WCharlotteCharlotte13–5
15Wed.16–2 WHigh PointHome14–5
17, 18Friday,
17–7 WPittsburghPittsburgh15–5,
2–2 ACC
21Tuesday6–4 WN.C. A&THome16–5
23Thursday6–3 WDukeHome17–5,
3–2 ACC
24Friday8–5 LDukeHome17–6,
3–3 ACC
25Saturday5–3 WDukeHome18–6,
4–3 ACC
28Tuesday12–7 LNo. 9 Coastal CarolinaHome18–7
31Friday10–8 WNotre DameSouth Bend, Ind.19–7,
5–3 ACC
2Sunday5–2 WNotre DameSouth Bend, Ind.20–7,
6–3 ACC
2Sunday9–1 LNotre DameSouth Bend, Ind20–8,
6–4 ACC
4Tuesday5–0 LSouth CarolinaCharlotte20–9
6Thursday8–1 WGeorgia TechAtlanta21–9,
7–4 ACC
7Friday10–6 WGeorgia TechAtlanta22–9,
8–4 ACC
7Friday8–4 LGeorgia TechAtlanta22–10,
8–5 ACC
11Tuesday10–6 WQueensHome23–10
13Thursday5–4 LNo. 8 MiamiHome23–11,
8–6 ACC
9–8 W,
11 inn.
No. 8 MiamiHome24–11,
9–6 ACC
15Saturday4–3 LNo. 8 MiamiHome24–12,
9–7 ACC
18Tuesday5–3 WCharlotteHome25–12
21Friday9–8 L,
10 inn.
Boston CollegeHome25–13,
9–8 ACC
22Saturday9–4 LBoston CollegeHome25–14,
9–9 ACC
23Sunday6–2 LBoston CollegeHome25–15,
9–10 ACC
25Tuesday18–2 WUNCWHome26–15
28Friday7–0 LVirginia TechBlacksburg, Va.26–16,
9–11 ACC
29Saturday12–8 WVirginia TechBlacksburg, Va.27–16,
10–11 ACC
29Saturday13–7 WVirginia TechBlacksburg, Va.28–16,
11–11 ACC
2Tuesday6–5 LNo. 11 CampbellHome28–17
3Wed.2–1 WNo. 15 East CarolinaGreenville29–17
9Tuesday5–4 WGardner-WebbHome30–17
11Thursday9–8 WN.C. StateHome31–17,
12–11 ACC
12Friday9–3 WN.C. StateHome32–17,
13–11 ACC
13Saturday12–2 WN.C. StateHome33–17,
14–11 ACC
16Tuesday8–6 LNo. 9 Coastal CarolinaConway, S.C.33–18
18Thursday14–7 LNo. 3 ClemsonClemson, S.C.33–19,
14–12 ACC
19Friday5–4 LNo. 3 ClemsonClemson, S.C.33–20,
14–13 ACC
20Saturday3–1 LNo. 3 ClemsonClemson, S.C.33–21,
14–14 ACC
ACC tournament
23Tuesday11–5 WGeorgia TechDurham34–21
25Thursday10–2 WNo. 11 VirginiaDurham35–21
27Saturday10–4 LSemifinal vs.
No. 3 Clemson
JuneNCAA tournament
Terre Haute Regional
2Friday5–4 LIowaTerre Haute, Ind.35–23
3Saturday5–0 WWright StateTerre Haute, Ind.36–23
4Sunday6–5 L,
13 innings
Iowa Terre Haute, Ind.36–24
Rankings according to D1Baseball

Photos courtesy of the ACC



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