No. 5 Baseball beats elements, Towson
Comeback win improves Cavaliers' record to 16-3
Many of the people directly involved with Virginia baseball — from the grounds crew to the coaching staff and ballplayers — went to uncommon lengths to keep the team’s Wednesday night game against Towson from becoming another scheduling casualty. After a snowstorm hit Charlottesville Sunday and Monday, the conditions at Davenport Field looked decidedly iffy.
The No. 5 Cavaliers (16-3, 5-1 ACC), however, made it to the field for their matchup with the Tigers, delivering a 5-3 comeback win before a sparse crowd in cold, wet weather.
“It was a tremendous effort by our entire group to even be on that field today,” coach Brian O’Connor said. “We spent a lot of time on that field the last couple of days shoveling snow and getting the field ready to play, and I’m glad that we did and came out and played a good baseball game.”
Sophomore southpaw David Rosenberger took the mound for the first start of his career and overcame a rocky first inning to earn the win. The Cavaliers got three dominant innings from redshirt senior righty Whit Mayberry and two more scoreless frames from senior reliever Austin Young and junior closer Nick Howard. The pitchers combined to strike out eight Towson batters against a single walk and blanked the Tigers after the first inning.
Howard had to make clutch pitches in notching his fifth save of the year — and make them he did. The two-way standout — Howard started the game at first base and had two RBIs in Virginia’s game-changing four-run third inning — went to full counts with each of his last three batters, including Towson senior left fielder Kurt Wertz, who earlier launched a two-run shot off Rosenberger to put the Tigers up, 3-0. Howard struck out redshirt freshman cleanup hitter Chris Henze and then Wertz on payoff pitches, ultimately getting junior first baseman Peter Bowles to fly to center to end it.
Virginia’s success in its relatively young season has largely hinged on its ability to adjust — and Wednesday night was a case in point. Beyond Rosenberger’s spot start, the Cavaliers’ usual first baseman, junior Mike Papi, played all nine innings in centerfield. Papi had never manned that position while at Virginia, but the 2013 ACC batting champion swatted away all praise of his defensive day.
“Outfield’s outfield,” Papi said. “If it’s hit to you, you catch it.”
Previously, the Cavaliers were forced to cancel Tuesday night’s game against Rutgers and also consolidate their weekend series against Boston College, playing a doubleheader Saturday instead of taking their chances with the weather Sunday. Earlier this year, Virginia was forced to reschedule midweek matchups with both George Washington and Old Dominion.
“You know, the frustrating part about it is [that] it’s hard for guys to get in a rhythm,” O’Connor said. “You know, especially, I think it affects the position players more than anybody, just the limited at-bats you can get. … So, you know, that’s why we put the effort in to get the field ready.”
The Cavaliers broke through in the third inning Wednesday after sophomore left fielder Robert Bennie singled with one gone. Junior second baseman Branden Cogswell reached base on an error from Bowles, and freshman shortstop Daniel Pinero singled to load the bases. Papi took a curveball and a fastball from Towson sophomore starter Joe Patton to fall behind 0-2, but he won out with an infield single which scored Pinero. Sophomore right fielder Joe McCarthy walked with the bases full, and Howard came through with a base knock to center to give Virginia a 4-3 lead.
Cogswell added a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning for the final margin. The Cavaliers manufactured the run small-ball style, as freshman designated hitter Matt Thaiss singled leading off, junior third baseman Kenny Towns drew a walk and Bennie moved both with a sacrifice bunt before Cogswell’s hard-hit ball to left field.
The Cavaliers will travel to Miami (11-7, 4-0 ACC) this weekend for a three-game series. The Hurricanes were ranked before this week’s Coaches Poll.
“I think this is our first top-25 team we’re playing, but every ACC weekend’s a big weekend for us,” Papi said. “We only get 10 of them a year, so we’re going to take advantage of all our opportunities.”