Hokies fall to Tar Heels in ACC baseball tournament final

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DURHAM, N.C. — After playing 32 innings in roughly 31 hours, North Carolina’s players may not have been completely rested.

Taylore Cherry sure was.

The first-time starter worked five solid innings to help the Tar Heels beat Virginia Tech 4-1 on Sunday in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game.

Cherry (1-0), a 6-foot-8, 270-pound freshman, pitched just 3 1-3 innings all season and never worked more than one inning in any of his five previous appearances.

But he gave up just five hits to the tournament’s hottest-hitting team while working into the sixth inning — and coach Mike Fox called those accomplishments “the story” of the game.

“He’s worked hard, and he’s prepared,” Fox said. “You never know when your moment is going to be.”

Skye Bolt was credited with two RBIs for top-seeded North Carolina, which earned its sixth ACC tournament title but just their second since 1990.

North Carolina claimed its 19th straight victory against the mistake-prone Hokies (38-20) and denied them their first conference title since they won the Atlantic-10 tournament in 2000. Virginia Tech made four errors and they all led directly to UNC runs.

“I thought it was unfortunate that we didn’t play a clean baseball game,” Virginia Tech coach Pete Hughes said. “We always want to play good defense and throw a lot of strikes, and we just didn’t play good defense today.”

The Tar Heels finished up with an exhausting 4-0 record this week in Durham, and the middle two wins lasted a combined 32 innings.

They needed 14 innings to beat Clemson on Friday night and 18 to defeat rival N.C. State in a game that ended just before 2 a.m. Sunday — roughly 11 hours before the title game.

Fox, who said he canceled the pregame meal and instead encouraged his players to sleep in, insisted he didn’t notice many tired Tar Heels.

“Youth — it’s a great thing,” he quipped.

But ACC player of the year Colin Moran had a slightly different perspective.

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