U.Va. blanks GW, 11-0
Seeing the George Washington baseball team in Charlottesville will always bring back memories of one of Virginia baseball’s finest moments: Will Roberts’ perfect game March 23, 2011. Wednesday, there was no perfection at Davenport Field, but four Cavalier pitchers combined for a dominating shutout performance in No. 19 Virginia’s 11-0 win against the Colonials to keep the team perfect on the season.
Freshman Trey Oest took the mound for Virginia (8-0) a little more than a week after throwing six shutout innings in his collegiate debut, throwing another five scoreless innings against the Colonials (0-6). The righty was sharp early, retiring the first three batters he faced in order. He faced some jams in the second and fourth innings, but he escaped both of them to keep the game scoreless.
“From the get-go, I had the first quick inning, then in the second inning, it was a little bit longer, and I knew that I didn’t have my best stuff exactly today,” Oest said. “My goal was to get the batters out early, and try to make them go early in the count, not to try to go into deep counts.”
Oest was economical in his pitching, needing just 61 pitches to get through five full innings, and he filled up the strike zone all day, allowing just two hits while striking out two.
“Trey’s throwing strikes and that’s the number-one most important thing we preach to our pitchers — challenging contact, getting contact early in the count and throwing strikes — and he’s doing that,” coach Brian O’Connor said. “He’s not perfect, and nobody is. Hopefully every time that he gets out there, it’s a learning experience for him.”
Against Colonial freshman starter Max Kaplow, the Virginia offense struggled to gain much traction in the early innings, and they did not pick up a hit until the third frame. Kaplow’s pitches traveled in the low 80s, and Virginia was forced to sit back and try to find a pitch to drive.
“Those guys are always difficult,” O’Connor said. “He’s a soft-tossing lefty that can throw a change-up at any time, and sometimes it can get you off balance. In the first three innings, we hit a lot of fly balls. Our hitting coach talked to our position players about what our approach needed to be going into the game, because we knew what we were facing, but unfortunately we didn’t make that adjustment until the fourth inning.”
In that fourth inning, the Cavaliers broke through in their second time around against Kaplow. Sophomore outfielder Brandon Downes led off the inning with a solo home run to left center field and the team scored three more runs in the inning on mostly singles, relying on aggressive baserunning to challenge the Colonial arms in the outfield.
The outburst gave the pitching staff room to breathe, and the Cavalier arms performed well for the rest of the game. Freshman Josh Sborz relieved Oest in the sixth and went 1.1 innings in scoreless relief. Junior lefty Kyle Crockett made his first appearance of the year in the seventh and eighth innings, giving up two hits. Crockett, who is one of the older members of the Virginia staff, missed the first two weeks of the season with a back injury.
“Kyle obviously has the most experience out of anybody on our pitching staff,” O’Connor said. “It’s great to have him back in the mix for us.”
Virginia picked up insurance runs in the sixth and seventh, and then exploded for a monster inning in the eighth, scoring five runs. After sophomores shortstop Branden Cogswell and outfielder Mike Papi singled, sophomore outfielder Derek Fisher drove them home with a triple down the right field line. Downes added another RBI on a single, and was driven home himself on a two-run double from sophomore third baseman Nick Howard to give the Cavaliers the 11-0 advantage.
Virginia now prepares for a round-robin weekend series in Charlottesville, with two games each against Harvard and Bucknell. The four-game schedule will give O’Connor a chance to mix up his lineup, creating opportunities for new faces on the field. The Cavaliers will continue their weekend rotation of freshman Brandon Waddell Friday, senior Scott Silverstein Saturday and Howard Sunday, but O’Connor has not yet decided who will start in the other game of Saturday’s double-header.
“You play four games in three days, and you’re going to get a look at a lot of different position players, give some guys opportunities to play, and you’re going to see some pitchers extended more than they have been previously,” O’Connor said. “I think it’s good to do that before we start conference play, to really get a true understanding of what we have.”
Both Bucknell and Harvard enter Charlottesville looking for their first win. The Bison have started the season 0-6, most recently dropping a three-game series at Duke this past the weekend. The Crimson, along with the rest of the Ivy League, have yet to play a game this season, and will open their 2013 campaign against Bucknell Friday.