Cavs take two of three
Team wins series against East Carolina after Hultzen sets tone Friday night
"If there's a better guy in college baseball, I'd like to see him."
That's what Virginia coach Brian O'Connor had to say about junior pitcher Danny Hultzen. The team ace dazzled on the mound and at the plate Friday night to set the tone for the No. 10 Cavaliers' 2-1 series win against East Carolina (4-2). Hultzen knocked in three runs and scored two more during Virginia's 10-1 game one victory. Junior catcher John Hicks, senior outfielder John Barr and senior outfielder David Coleman each picked up two hits apiece.
Virginia's biggest offensive weapon, however, might have been ECU's defense. Sophomore infielder Chris Taylor reached on an error to lead off the third inning and opened the gates for four Virginia runs. The Pirates committed three more errors during the fourth to allow the Cavaliers (6-1) to plate six runs. ECU freshman infielders Jack Reinheimer and Drew Reynolds combined for five errors during the game, and seven of Virginia's 10 runs were unearned.
"I've been there before," O'Connor said. "Both those kids on the left side of their infield are freshman, and we've started freshmen before in our infield and it's tough. Obviously it's a little bit easier to win when you have some errors that go your way"
Winning especially is easy with Friday night starter Hultzen. After allowing a leadoff single, the lefty retired the next 18 batters he faced. The Pirates finally scraped in a run during the seventh, but that mark barely blemished Hultzen's near-perfect line of three base runners allowed and a career-high 15 strikeouts.
"It makes all the difference in the world when you have a high-end Friday night starter like Danny Hultzen ... [and] that is as dominating of an outing as I've seen him have in his college career," O'Connor said.
After Friday's lopsided win, the Cavaliers trailed 2-1 through five innings Saturday. The team broke through during the bottom of the sixth, however, with a three-run inning. Another Reinheimer error gave the Cavaliers runners on first and third with no outs, and Barr and Hicks followed with RBIs. Virginia's starter, senior pitcher Tyler Wilson, finished the game with 6.1 innings pitched, 10 strikeouts and two earned runs, while sophomore pitcher Branden Kline notched the save for Virginia's 4-3 win.
Sunday's game showed that baseball is a game of inches. During the bottom of the second, Pirates' freshman outfielder Ben Fultz drove the ball to shallow right field, where Hultzen seemingly made the sliding catch. The umpires ruled he trapped it, though, giving the Pirates runners on first and second with no outs. Senior pitcher Cody Winarski appeared to escape the inning with a grounder to short, but Taylor looked to second before throwing to first, giving sophomore outfielder Philip Clark time to leg out an infield single.
"I wish I could have that play back," Taylor said. "But that kind of thing happens, and hopefully I can learn from it and it won't happen again."
Junior infielder Michael Ussery made the Cavaliers pay for their missed plays. He drove the ball over the shallow-playing Barr's head for a bases-clearing double. Senior outfielder Trent Whitehead then lined the ball just beyond Barr's grasp, and Ussery came around to score.
"It's tough to beat a really good club like East Carolina when you don't make a couple of plays that need to be made," O'Connor said. "That's baseball, the breaks don't always go your way, and they didn't for us today."
Pirates' junior pitcher Mike Wright held Virginia hitless through the first five innings, but the Cavaliers finally began to chip away at the lead in the sixth. Taylor singled and then scored on junior infielder Steven Proscia's single up the middle, and Barr added another run in the seventh.
Virginia threatened in the eighth with runners on the corners and no outs, but Proscia struck out and East Carolina gunned down junior infielder Keith Werman stealing. Hicks walked to lead off the ninth inning, but he too was caught stealing. The Pirates then retired Virginia's next two batters to hold on for the 4-3 win and salvage a game in the series.
"That was a tough loss [Sunday]," Taylor said. "But you have to look at all three games, and I think we have to be pretty proud of how we did"