Baseball goes quiet against VMI
No. 1 Cavaliers manage just six hits in loss
No. 1 Virginia baseball coach Brian O’Connor planned to start Artie Lewicki Tuesday afternoon against VMI, but minutes before the first pitch, assistant coach Karl Kuhn informed him that the senior right-hander had tweaked his side and would need to sit out.
The Cavaliers changed course on the fly, turning to redshirt senior Whit Mayberry to shut down the Keydets. Mayberry, normally a reliever, pitched into the fourth inning of his spot start, but Virginia ultimately fell 3-2.
“Tonight, you know, VMI just beat us,” O’Connor said. “They got some clutch hits, and their pitchers pitched great. And they deserved to win a lot more than we did.”
The Cavaliers (6-2), losing for the first time since their season-opener against Kentucky, were largely unable to solve sophomore long reliever Taylor Edens, who followed senior lefthander Campbell Henkel with five two-hit innings out of the bullpen. Edens brought a low-80s fastball and a low-70s slider, a marked departure in velocity from last weekend’s hard-throwing East Carolina staff.
“[Edens] did a nice job,” O’Connor said. “He was throwing from a lower arm angle. You know, his ball was running pretty good. He kept our guys honest and kept the ball down in the zone, and we hit a lot of balls right at guys.”
Henkel and Edens retired 11 Cavalier batters in a row between the third and seventh innings, quelling a Virginia lineup that scored 12 runs against the Keydets just a week and a half ago in a shutout victory at the Hughes Bros. Challenge in Wilmington, NC. Junior first baseman Mike Papi drilled a home run leading off the third inning and scored both of the Cavaliers’ runs, but outside of him and junior leftfielder Derek Fisher, Virginia looked slightly flummoxed at the plate.
“I mean, baseball’s a game of adjustments,” Papi said. “We didn’t make the little adjustments throughout the game to have a good game offensively, and that’s what you have to do when you go [from] facing 95, 97 to facing someone throwing 81.”
Meanwhile, VMI (5-2) produced just enough offense to win, albeit with some help from the Cavaliers. The Keydets rallied against Mayberry in the fourth inning, starting with sophomore designated hitter Red Dowdell’s one-out single to right field. Junior rightfielder Brandon Angus slapped a double down the third-base line in the next at-bat, and 2013 All Big South catcher Matt Winn scored Dowdell on a drag bunt.
The Keydets’ outburst could have ended in the next at-bat, when redshirt junior leftfielder Will Connerley bounced a ground ball to short. Papi, though, did not catch freshman shortstop Daniel Pinero’s knee-high throw to first.
“That’s my fault,” Papi said. “That’s on me. I just missed it.”
VMI tacked on an insurance run against freshman reliever Connor Jones in the eighth inning, when redshirt junior Jordan Tarsovich singled, moved to second on sophomore third baseman David Geary’s sacrifice and then stole third. Tarsovich came home on Angus’ base knock.
Virginia mounted a comeback in the bottom of the ninth. Papi lined a single between first and second base and advanced on junior second baseman Branden Cogswell’s groundout. Sophomore right fielder Joe McCarthy followed with a potential double-play ball next, but Tarsovich flubbed the chance. Junior centerfielder Brandon Downes knocked in Papi with a groundout to short, bringing Fisher to the plate with two outs. Fisher, though, flied out to left field.
Virginia plays Monmouth in a three-game series this weekend at Davenport Field. Though their result Tuesday was underwhelming, Mayberry said losing is part of the game.
“You know, this is the game of baseball, and there’s obviously things that we could’ve done better, and I believe that our team will use this as a learning experience to play better on Friday,” Mayberry said. “So we’re looking forward to that.”