Viracola's gem, late run help Averett knock off top seed Ferrum in USA South tournament opener

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WILSON, N.C. — Senior Drew Evans scored the eventual game-winning run on a wild pitch in the top of the ninth inning as the eighth-seeded Averett University baseball team knocked off top seed Ferrum College 2-1 to open the USA South Conference Tournament Thursday at Fleming Stadium.

Evans led off the ninth with a double to left field to put the go-ahead run in scoring position for Averett (19-20). Senior Mike Moore's sacrifice bunt advanced Evans another 90 feet, and moments later Evans came home on a wild pitch by Panthers left-hander Hunter Peck to put the Cougars ahead.

Ferrum (26-11), however, made things interesting in the bottom half of the ninth. After Ty Comer was hit by a pitch with out, Clay Massie kept the inning going with a two-out single to center to put the tying run in scoring position. Senior right-hander T.J. Viracola induced a game-ending flyout to left field, advancing the Cougars into the winner's bracket.

Averett will play next on Friday at 10 a.m. at N.C. Wesleyan College's Bauer Field in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. The Cougars face the winner of Thursday's 1 p.m. game between No. 4 seed Maryville College and No. 5 seed Methodist University.

The game was a pitchers' duel throughout as both teams' aces settled down after each allowing a run in the first inning. Viracola only allowed four hits while striking out 10 for his seventh complete game of the season. He outlasted Ferrum's Jake Perkins, the USA South Pitcher of the Year, who scattered three hits and struck out 11 in eight innings before the Panthers went to the bullpen.

The Cougars took an early lead when junior Hunter Ashworth scored on an error from Ferrum's third baseman. Ferrum knotted the score at 1-1 courtesy of an RBI single through the left side by Lane Deaver. Perkins and Viracola kept their opponents off the scoreboard again until the top of the ninth when Evans came home with the eventual game-winning run.