No. 6 Baseball sweeps rain-shortened series against Monmouth
Cavaliers win Sunday doubleheader, 5-3, 6-2; rain ends late game after six innings
Right around 5:15 p.m. Sunday afternoon, the No. 6 Virginia baseball team emerged from the home dugout to cover the Davenport Field infield with a large tarp. The Cavaliers then retreated to the clubhouse with a 6-2 win in their pocket and their second home-series sweep in the bag after the second game of a Sunday doubleheader against Monmouth was called following the top of the sixth inning due to persistent rain.
“I thought this weekend was a really good weekend for us,” coach Brian O’Connor said. “Any time you sweep a series, you’ve got to feel good about it.”
Sophomore left-hander Brandon Waddell started Sunday’s finale, and he turned in his best outing of the year, tossing a six-inning, five-hit complete game and striking out five Hawks (1-5). After ceding a two-out, two-run double to junior centerfielder Steve Wilgus, Waddell bore down, retiring 10 of his last 11 batters faced despite the tricky field conditions. Waddell said the rain was no reason to not pitch well.
“It was a little bit of an obstacle,” Waddell said. “You know, you slip here and there, [and] you go out in the dirt and it sticks to your cleats. But I mean, both teams were pitching in it, so it’s something you’ve got to go with and throw your game.”
The Cavaliers (9-2) got to Monmouth junior left-hander Jeff Singer, the Division III Pitcher of the Year last season for Gloucester Community College, from the very beginning.
Junior first baseman Mike Papi worked his fourth walk of the doubleheader to lead off the first inning, and after Singer hit junior left fielder Derek Fisher with one out, junior centerfielder Brandon Downes lined a double into the left-centerfield gap, scoring both. Soon after, the Hawks got junior right-hander Chris McKenna going in the bullpen.
Singer came back out for the second, and the Cavaliers greeted him in like fashion, with freshman shortstop Daniel Pinero doubling in junior third baseman Kenny Towns. Pinero then scored on Fisher’s groundout to Monmouth sophomore third baseman Robbie Alessandrine.
McKenna momentarily quieted the Cavalier bats in relief of Singer, but in the sixth, he issued back-to-back one-out walks and Virginia sophomore right fielder Joe McCarthy made him pay. McCarthy launched a two-run double off the wall in right-centerfield, and the game was called soon after.
“Monmouth’s coach and I talked right after the first game with the umpires and our field people, and we just thought that we’d try to play as long as we could,” O’Connor. “You know, I hate when you have a guest in town — [an] opposing team — and you play a rain-shortened game, only a six-inning ballgame. You don’t like winning that way.”
Sophomore right hander Josh Sborz started the early game Sunday, throwing five innings and earning his third win in as many starts. The Cavaliers then handed the ball to sophomore lefty David Rosenberger for the sixth and seventh frames. O’Connor turned to junior closer Nick Howard for the eighth and ninth, and the two-way standout nailed down his first two-inning save of the year.
“I just felt that first game, it was time for [Howard] to come in and [to] stretch him out a little bit and look at him for two innings,” O’Connor said. “You know, there may be a point that he enters a ballgame in the seventh inning at some point, depending on what happens throughout the weekend and what we have in front of us. So, I thought Nick was in complete control. He’s throwing strikes and working fast and mixing his pitches.”
Papi and McCarthy led the Cavalier offense in the 5-3 win, combining to reach base seven times in nine plate appearances. After Sunday’s first game, Papi’s on-base percentage stood at an astronomical .574.
The Cavaliers were patient at the plate in Saturday’s series-opener, as well. Monmouth sent senior southpaw Andrew McGee, the reigning MAAC Pitcher of the Week, to the mound. Virginia worked McGee, a pitcher who yielded only 15 walks in 110.1 innings last season, for four free passes. The left-hander departed after four innings of five-run ball.
“I thought our approach against McGee in game one was really good. You know, that kid last year was 8-2, he threw 111 innings and had a 2.12 ERA, and he was their conference pitcher of the year—and for a reason. He’s a command guy and gets you off stride, and I thought that we were very, very disciplined against him.”
Sophomore left-hander Nathan Kirby threw six one-run innings for the Cavaliers to pick up the win. Virginia’s most memorable moment of the day, however, might have come in the third inning, when junior catcher Nate Irving hit his first career home run, a three-run shot to left field.
“You know, we kind of gave him a hard time about it with the wind and a little gust, but it’s great,” Waddell said. “It was nice a swing, nice contact for him.
Virginia plays midweek games against George Washington and Old Dominion this Tuesday and Wednesday before beginning its ACC slate Friday at Duke.