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UVA Baseball: Nathan Kirby, Nick Howard Lead Cavs to Series Win

Virginia Baseball

Courtesy Virginia Athletics

UVA won another ACC series behind strong pitching performances from Nathan Kirby and closer Nick Howard. However, North Carolina salvaged the last game of the series with a 4-2 win as Zac Gallen and Reilly Hovis held the Cavs bats at bay. UVA moves to 33-7 overall and 16-5 in ACC play, while the Tarheels sit at 23-17, and 10-11 in conference games.

As advertised, Friday night was a pitching duel between Kirby and Tarheel ace Trent Thornton. The UVA left-hander got the better of Thornton, going 7.2 strong innings with 12 strikeouts. Kirby allowed two runs on six hits and two walks, bringing his ERA to 1.36.

Thornton hung in against the Cavs, but centerfielder Brandon Downes knocked in all three runs against him with a home run and a sacrifice fly. Howard earned his 12th save of the season by striking out all three batters in the 9th to preserve a 3-2 lead.

Saturday saw another tight game. Though the Tarheels notched ten hits against Cavaliers pitching, they would muster only one run. UVA managed only three hits, but one of them was a two-run home run by Kenny Towns, his first of the year, which gave the Cavaliers a 3-0 lead in the third inning.

After Josh Sborz departed, Connor Jones worked three innings of shutout baseball, striking out one, and retiring seven batters via the ground ball. Howard pitched a 1-2-3 9th, striking out two for his second save in as many days.

In the final game, it was UNC that got the big home run. Shortstop Michael Russell drilled a two-run home run in the 5th inning which gave the Tarheels a 3-1 lead. Hovis entered with one out in the 6th and retired all 11 batters he faced to secure his third save of the season.

UVA won the series, and they’ll likely retain the top spot in College Baseball Central’s rankings. However, if the Miami Hurricanes sweep their doubleheader with Notre Dame, they will take over first place in the ACC. The two teams met earlier in the year, and UVA took two out of three games.

Chris Moran is a second-year law student and assistant baseball coach at Washington University in St. Louis. He played baseball at Wheaton College where he donned the tools of ignorance. Contact him via our contact page or follow him on Twitter @hangingslurves