Cavaliers cruise past Lancers Wednesday, 8-1
Freshman Bettinger makes second career start, throws five scoreless innings
Freshman right-hander Alec Bettinger made the second start of his collegiate career Wednesday night when the No. 2 Cavaliers drew swords with the Longwood Lancers before a small legion of fans at Davenport Field. Bettinger made the most of his opportunity on the mound, and sophomore third baseman John La Prise — who started for just the eighth time this year — came through for Virginia (20-4, 7-2 ACC) at the plate, spurring the Cavaliers to an 8-1 victory.
The contest marked Virginia’s 20th win of the season in another midweek game made possible by dedicated work from the grounds crew, coaching staff and local Virginia baseball supporters on the day following snowfall.
“I’ll tell you, I walked out on the field early this morning, and I had some serious doubts whether or not we needed to play this game,” coach Brian O’Connor said. “You know, our coaching staff started working, shoveling snow at 8 a.m. this morning, and we got some help from some other people around town for us to essentially move every inch of snow on the field and get it off the field to be able to play baseball. So, first of all, I’m grateful to everyone that helped out to allow us to even play tonight.”
Bettinger (2-0) walked sophomore centerfielder Colton Konvicka in the first at-bat of the game, and senior shortstop Matt Dickason quickly moved him into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. However, the freshman hurler induced a popup from senior designated hitter Scott Burkett and struck out senior and 2013 All-Big South honoree Alex Owens to escape the inning unscathed.
From there, the Woodbridge, Va. product found his groove. Bettinger needed only 30 pitches to record his first 10 outs, exiting the ballgame after five scoreless innings of three-hit, three-walk baseball. He put on two base runners in his final frame, but found his way out of trouble on Konvicka’s ground-out to La Prise at third.
“I thought Alec Bettinger did a nice job in his second start of his career — gave us five strong innings,” O’Conor said. “Hopefully every time that he’s out there and starts a ballgame, he learns more and continues to grow and grow his pitch count.”
La Prise finished the game 1-for-2 with two RBIs, a walk and a run scored. He singled home freshman designated hitter Matt Thaiss in the bottom of the second to give the Cavaliers a 4-0 lead. In the fourth inning, he lofted a fly ball to mid-centerfield to again score Thaiss from third base.
La Prise entered the game batting .346 in 26 at-bats, and said his success in a bench role has come from intense focus.
“[I’m] just going after — like every day in practice and BP — just like game speed,” La Prise said. “Always being ready when my number is called, just always being mentally prepared.”
Virginia jumped on freshman right-hander Devin Gould (1-1) in the second inning. Every Cavalier made a plate appearance and the team recorded three hits and worked a pair of walks.
After Gould threw high of first base trying to retire junior catcher Nate Irving on his sacrifice bunt attempt, junior second baseman Branden Cogswell followed La Prise’s single with a squeeze bunt that scored Irving.
The Cavaliers outdid Longwood (12-14, 2-4 Big South) in the field as well, registering another errorless game. Virginia came into the evening second in the country, with a .987 fielding percentage. With the Longwood game in the books, Virginia has made just 12 errors in 24 games.
“We’ve really been exceptional from a defensive standpoint,” O’Connor said. “I think Danny Pinero’s doing a tremendous job at shortstop. Branden Cogswell’s doing a great job at second, and certainly those are going to be the two positions that are going to handle the ball the most, and they’ve been very, very consistent all year long. Essentially, in the middle of our diamond with those two guys, we have two high quality shortstops that are fielding at those two positions, and they seem to work pretty well together. ”
Sophomore left-hander Kevin Doherty pitched two perfect innings for Virginia, lowering his ERA to 1.42 on the season.
Remarkably, Doherty has the highest ERA of the four pitchers Virginia threw at Longwood.
Sophomore left-hander David Rosenberger sits at 0.55 following his scoreless sixth inning, and senior right-hander Austin Young’s mark rose to 1.35 after the Lancers scored off him in the ninth.
“I thought everybody out of the bullpen really did a good job,” O’Connor said. “I thought Kevin Doherty was as good as he’s been all year. He pitched, really, two outstanding innings.”
Junior Mike Papi — who started in left field instead of at first base or in center field, his usual defensive positions — knocked in his team-best 23rd RBI of the year with an eighth-inning sacrifice fly. Reigning ACC Player of the Week Nick Howard, a junior two-way player, had his hitting streak snapped at seven games.
The Cavaliers will play Virginia Tech this weekend in a three-game series at Davenport Field. Game times are Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 1 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.