Baseball trounces Tribe in make-up game, 11-2
Cavaliers earn 100th win against in-state team under O'Connor
Back on Feb. 19 in Williamsburg, Va., the Virginia baseball team slammed William & Mary 17-2 for its third win of the year. Wednesday night, the Cavaliers and Tribe squared off again, this time at Davenport Field. What followed was a three-hour taste of déjà vu — especially where senior right-hander Artie Lewicki, the starting pitcher both nights, was concerned.
“He pitched tonight like he did at William & Mary first week of the season,” coach Brian O’Connor said of Lewicki, who suffered a strained oblique earlier this year and is just now rounding back into form. “I’m extremely pleased with his progress.”
Top-ranked Virginia (31-6, 14-4 ACC) bounced William & Mary (22-14, 6-2 CAA), 11-2, behind Lewicki’s five scoreless innings and a veritable offensive deluge. The Cavaliers captured their 21st win at home as well as 100th in-state win of O’Connor’s tenure while burning through six Tribe pitchers on 14 hits and seven walks.
“Sometimes, a team can look forward to the next ACC weekend, and I’m just really proud of our guys because I thought we came out and played a really good ballgame against a very good opponent,” O’Connor said. “You know, William & Mary’s offensive numbers are just really, really impressive, and I think that speaks to the job that Artie Lewicki did tonight.”
The 112th matchup between Virginia and William & Mary featured an intriguing statistical breach. The Cavaliers came into the day fourth in the nation in ERA at 2.06 and first in opponents’ batting average at .194. The Tribe, meanwhile, travelled to Charlottesville scoring a Division I-best 9.5 runs per game. William & Mary rolled out a lineup featuring seven .300 hitters and the CAA’s resident all-star: junior left fielder Michael Katz, the national leader in home runs (14) and RBIs (64).
O’Connor said he believed Lewicki could quiet the Tribe bats, but he also knew that might not be enough.
“I think Artie pitched really well the last couple of times out there, and every time we’re trying to increase his pitch count,” O’Connor said. “I felt good about [starting him], but when you look at William & Mary’s offensive numbers, I mean, they’re very, very gaudy numbers, as good as you’ll see in college baseball.”
Once the game started, Virginia showcased its own offensive talents. The Cavaliers manufactured a first-inning run small-ball style following junior second baseman Branden Cogswell’s leadoff double to left on a ball that dropped in just inside the line. Freshman shortstop Daniel Pinero bunted him to third for his team-leading 11th sacrifice hit, and junior left fielder Mike Papi drove a fly ball to mid-center field for his 31st RBI of the year.
The Cavaliers doubled their lead in the bottom of the second, when junior catcher Nate Irving reached on a two-out infield single and freshman designated hitter Matt Thaiss picked up the first of his three hits in three at-bats. Freshman right-hander Daniel Powers retired junior third baseman Kenny Towns on a fly ball to right field to end the frame.
Powers, however, did not record another out. Virginia loaded the bases on a Cogswell single, Pinero walk, and Papi base knock to begin the third, sending the Tribe starter to the showers. Sophomore right fielder Joe McCarthy walked to the plate against junior reliever Bryson Kauhaahaa with an opportunity to blow the game open.
Virginia’s cleanup man for the night sent a sinking liner out to center field, where senior Derek Lowe charged in for a possible shoestring catch. Lowe came up just short, and the ball skipped past him, rolling toward the dark blue wall. Every base runner scored, including McCarthy, who wheeled all the way around the infield for the Cavaliers’ sixth run of the night. He was credited with a single, and Lowe was tagged with a three-base error.
The Cavaliers scored once more before the inning was out and tacked on runs in the fourth and fifth to build a 9-0 lead.
Meanwhile, Lewicki dominated on the mound. He fanned redshirt senior first baseman Kevin Nutter on a 91-mph outside fastball to begin the game. Two batters later, he snuck a 2-2 breaking ball by Katz for his second strikeout of the frame.
Lewicki finished the night with eight strikeouts against two walks. He yielded one hit in his 19 batters faced, lowering his ERA to 1.12 in the process.
“He looked great,” Thaiss said. “He had all of the stuff. He was locating. He was getting ahead early in counts, getting guys out, and he was putting guys away. He did a great job throughout. I know [pitching] coach [Karl Kuhn] was definitely really proud of him, as the whole team was.”
Thaiss played quite possibly his best game in a Virginia uniform. He impressed with the bat all fall and in the early weeks of the regular season before slumping slightly. Wednesday, he launched his fifth double of the year.
“I mean, it definitely feels good, you know, not as much as the hits as just trying to get quality at-bats,” Thaiss said. “Overall as a team we’ve all had quality at-bats over the past few weeks, and we’ve been doing really good.”
Virginia plays North Carolina in a three-game ACC series this weekend in Charlottesville. The baseball gets started 6 p.m. Friday.