No. 1 Baseball outlasts Old Dominion
Bettinger throws six shutout innings, Cavaliers score seven runs in the sixth
In the bottom of the sixth inning Tuesday evening at Davenport Field, junior second baseman Branden Cogswell strode to the plate with men on the corners and two outs. The No. 1 Cavaliers were locked in a scoreless tie with Old Dominion and had already left eight men on base through five.
Cogswell battled junior right-hander Greg Tomchick for a walk, knocking one foul ball off his foot and striking junior catcher Nate Irving at the top of the Virginia dugout — Irving was wearing his chest protector, making for a scary and then light moment — with another. Freshman shortstop Daniel Pinero then situated himself in the batter’s box with the bases loaded. Pinero grounded a single through the middle of the infield, and the Cavaliers were on board.
Virginia ran with its momentum, scoring seven times in the frame and coming home with a 7-1 win. The Cavaliers (24-4, 10-2 ACC) won their seventh consecutive game and improved to a staggering 17-1 on their home diamond.
“Everybody was squaring it up, having good swings,” sophomore third baseman John La Prise said of innings before Virginia’s breakthrough. “And [coach Brian O’Connor] said at the end of the game, you know, if you do the right things, it will eventually happen. …We always know that somebody will clutch up eventually.”
The Cavaliers scored every one of their sixth-inning runs with two outs, and seven different players crossed home plate in the frame. Sophomore first baseman Robbie Coman walked in the first at-bat of the inning, the game still a pitcher’s duel. He came back up a second time with two outs, lining a single to right field for Virginia’s seventh and final run.
Freshman right-hander Alec Bettinger made the third start of his Virginia career, and he turned in a gem, throwing six scoreless innings while yielding only three hits and two walks. Bettinger threw a career-high 77 pitches and kept the Monarchs (16-12, 6-6 C-USA) from converting their scoring chances. Old Dominion put a runner on second base in four of his six innings. Not one made it past there.
“Alec Bettinger was tremendous tonight,” O’Connor said. “I felt like he really grew up as a pitcher for us. You know, he’s made a couple of really nice starts for us. This obviously was his best, against the best opponent he’s faced. And no disrespect to anybody else, but Old Dominion has a very good team. They’re as well-coached [a team] as we will play all year.”
Bettinger is now 3-0 with a 0.95 ERA and has stepped up as a midweek starter for the Cavaliers. He threw four innings his first time out, five last week against Longwood and upped that total again Tuesday.
“My arm was the best it felt so far because I think I’ve just gotten used to throwing more and more,” Bettinger said. “It wasn’t like the plan at the beginning of the year for me to be the midweek guy, but ever since [senior right-hander] Artie [Lewicki] went down, you know, I just kind of had to pick it up.”
Pinero was certainly impressed with his teammate on the mound.
“He was dealing,” Pinero said. “He was keeping the ball low, attacking the strike zone, being aggressive with the strike zone and getting guys out, you know, [with] one [or] two pitches.”
Senior right-hander Austin Young pitched a scoreless top of the seventh, but O’Connor pulled him after he surrendered a long double to senior third baseman Jordan Negrini leading off the eighth. Sophomore left-hander Kevin Doherty gave up a single, walk and hit-by-pitch as the Monarchs brought Negrini home, but he also induced a double-play ball off the bat of senior first baseman Josiah Burney. Doherty finished the game with a scoreless ninth.
Junior left fielder Mike Papi worked three walks in reaching base four times, and junior center fielder Brandon Downes knocked in two runs with his sixth-inning single. La Prise, batting from the nine-hole, led the Cavaliers with three hits, while sophomore right fielder and reigning ACC Co-Player of the Week Joe McCarthy had two more RBIs.
The Cavaliers return to play Wednesday afternoon for game against George Washington. First pitch is set for 5 p.m. at Davenport Field. Lewicki will return from injury as the starting pitcher.