Virginia baseball steamrolls Toledo
Team builds on dominant season, improves to 7-0
Most freshmen athletes would be happy to simply get a chance to make it out on the field, but for pitcher Brandon Waddell, it was clear that he would want more. The lefty was stunning in his home debut, striking out 15 batters in six innings in a 15-0 blowout of Toledo at Davenport Field Friday. His performance keyed a strong weekend for the No. 25 Cavaliers as they rolled over Toledo 5-0 Saturday and 6-3 Sunday.
“Waddell had complete command of all his pitches,” Virginia coach Brian O’Connor said. “I’m really proud of him — how he came out and threw the baseball.”
Waddell was on fire from the beginning of the game, using perfect pitch placement to stymie the Toledo (1-4) bats and strike out seven of the first nine batters he faced. He gave up six hits in the outing, allowing just three runners to get into scoring positions. Waddell is not an overpowering pitcher, however, and many of his strikeouts came on off-speed pitches.
“I’m not really a power guy, I never have been,” Waddell said. “My frame doesn’t support power. I’ve thrown the change-up my whole life; it’s really been my best pitch.”
Behind him, the Virginia (7-0) offense once again delivered, serving up its most dominant performance so far this year. The Cavaliers scored in each of the first six innings to support Waddell, highlighted by a fourth inning that saw Virginia put up seven runs. The offensive production was consistent across the board, with seven different batters knocking in runs.
Waddell’s performance proved very tough to follow up, but redshirt senior Scott Silverstein was impressive on the mound for Virginia Saturday, going 6.1 innings and allowing no runs for the Cavaliers.
“Yesterday was pretty amazing,” Silverstein said. “Personally, I had to completely forget about it, because I’m not competing against Brandon, I’m competing against whoever’s on the other side of the field. I’m happy to be able to go out there and give us a chance to win.”
Silverstein’s performance was matched by an equally impressive performance from Toledo senior pitcher Kyle Shaw, who held the Cavaliers scoreless through the first five innings of the game. His only blemish came in the bottom of the sixth inning, when sophomore designated hitter and infielder Kenny Towns tripled to score sophomore catcher and center fielder Brandon Downes to put the Cavaliers up 1-0.
Once Shaw left the game after the sixth inning, the Virginia offense found success hitting off sophomore reliever Andrew Marra, as Downes launched a three-run home run into left center field in the bottom of the eighth inning to give Virginia a 4-0 lead. The team picked up another run off an RBI single from freshman right fielder Joe McCarthy to enter the ninth inning up by five. It was a closer game than the Cavaliers had become accustomed to thus far this season, but the team was happy to show they can pull out a close game.
“I knew that the offensive output that we had had in the first five games, that’s not going to be there every day,” O’Connor said. “I’m proud of our guys, because you’re going to face really tough pitchers in our league. Shaw is one of those type guys, and you’re just not going to knock the fences down. You’ve got to stick to the fundamentals like we did, and you’ll be rewarded for it.”
Redshirt junior Whit Mayberry relieved Silverstein in the seventh and continued the starter’s strong work, racking up four strikeouts in 2.2 innings to close out the Rockets and record the save. It was questionable when Mayberry would be able to pitch this year after season-ending Tommy John surgery in 2012, but he has given O’Connor confidence in his ability in the early season.
“We know this with Whit Mayberry: he’s going to throw strikes,” O’Connor said. “Certainly his stuff is not there yet to where it was last year, but you know he’s going to throw the ball where you ask him to throw the ball.”
Sunday, the Cavaliers looked to shut out Toledo yet again, turning to sophomore Nick Howard on four days rest for the start. He delivered, firing four scoreless innings to start the game and running the starting pitching staff’s streak of not giving up runs to 29.1 innings. Howard, who plays third base when not pitching, was taken out of the game after the fourth to protect his arm, and left with a slim 1-0 lead over the Rockets.
The Virginia offense did not have its normal potency Sunday — the team managed just three hits — but it capitalized on eight walks from the Toledo pitching staff and small ball to move ahead. In the bottom of the fifth, sophomore left fielder Derek Fisher hit a high fly ball into left center that caught the wind for a three-run homer, breaking a tie to put the Cavaliers up 4-1.
Hard-throwing freshman Nathan Kirby relieved Howard in the fifth, but Toledo junior catcher James Miglin took him deep to break the 22.2 inning scoreless streak for the Rockets against the Cavaliers. Kirby gave up two more runs in the seventh inning, but junior pitcher Austin Young retired the Rockets to stop the threat at 4-3.
“It’s good to see some of those pitchers go out there and have some success,” O’Connor said. “Nathan Kirby is certainly going to do really good things for us, he’s just running into some tough fortune right now, but he’s going to be a very valuable pitcher for us as we move forward.”
After the Toledo pitchers walked the first three batters in the bottom of the eighth to load the bases, Virginia got two more runs on a sacrifice fly from senior second baseman Reed Gragnani and a squeeze bunt from sophomore catcher Nate Irving to give them a 6-3 lead going into the top of ninth. Freshman pitcher Josh Sborz checked in to close out the game for Virginia, picking up the save with 1.2 innings of scoreless relief.
Virginia improves to 7-0 on the season and has outscored its opponents 73-19 so far . The Cavaliers now prepare for a 3 p.m. Tuesday matchup against George Washington University at Davenport Field, the sixth game of a 15-game home stand for the team.