The top-ranked Virginia baseball team edged North Carolina, 3-2, in the series opener between the two teams Friday in front of more than 4,500 fans at Davenport Field.
Nathan Kirby pitched 7 2/3 innings and struck out 12, while Brandon Downes homered and drove in all three UVa runs in the win.
The Cavaliers are now 32-6 overall and 15-4 in ACC play, while UNC falls to 22-16 on the season and 9-10 in conference play.
“Obviously Nathan Kirby is locked in and continues to pitch at a very high level week after week,” Virginia head coach Brian O’Connor said. “He is showing that he is a really high quality Friday night starter. He was terrific tonight. He needed to be because (Trent) Thornton is equally as good.
"Tonight it came down to one pass by Brandon Downes on the home run that he hit. That was great to see. I thought Downes took a lot better swings than he has. Overall, it was a very well-played game with little margin for error."
Kirby now holds an 8-1 record this season, after winning the showdown of the ACC’s two winningest pitchers of 2014. North Carolina ace Trent Thornton entered the game with 7 wins on the year. Kirby gave up two earned runs, six hits and two walks while striking out twelve, the second most in his career.
Whit Mayberry closed out the eighth with a strikeout, before Nick Howard struck out the side in the ninth to earn his 12th save in as many opportunities.
The Cavaliers got on the board first in the second inning when Downes hit a two-run home run into the left-field bleachers. The long ball, Downes’ fifth of the year, also scored Howard.
North Carolina tied the score in the sixth inning, but the 'Hoos responded in the bottom of the frame. Howard ripped the first pitch to center for a single and advanced to third on a hit-and-run single from La Prise. Downes then hit a sacrifice fly to center to score Howard.
The second game of the series is set for 1 p.m. Saturday, while the series finale will be played at 1 p.m. Sunday.
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