No. 1 Cavs splatter Spiders on 80's night, 13-0
Team hits four home runs to support Bettinger one-hitter
The 1980s was not exactly the decade of the home run. Sluggers Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Babe Ruth were past their MLB playing days, and Barry Bonds was just beginning his. With Wednesday night bringing 80s Night to Davenport Field, however, the Virginia baseball team celebrated by launching long ball after long ball.
The No. 1 Cavaliers smacked four round-trippers, and freshman right-hander Alec Bettinger spun six lights-out frames as sophomore right fielder Joe McCarthy racked up five RBIs. Virginia ultimately posted a 13-0 win in its 141st all-time meeting with the Richmond Spiders.
“I thought we came out and played a really good ballgame,” coach Brian O’Connor said. “It was great to see — obviously, the offense — you know, see some guys hit the ball out of the ballpark. And I thought Alec Bettinger again did a really tremendous job throwing strikes.”
The Cavaliers (35-7, 16-5 ACC) sported retro jerseys, with “U.Va.” in white block letters printed across the chest, and the sound system played 80s tunes —“Eye of the Tiger” and “Sledgehammer” among them — all evening long.
“It’s different for sure,” junior left fielder Derek Fisher said of the blast-from-the-past theme. “We’re here so often and fortunate enough to play a lot of midweek games here, and to be able to wear something different and listen to some different music is something that’s pretty cool.”
Richmond (15-22-1, 6-9 A-10) pegged freshman right-hander Robbie Baker to start, and for two no-hit innings, he defied his season stat-line of 13 walks against 10 strikeouts and a 7.88 ERA. In the third inning, Virginia turned the budding pitchers’ duel to dust and memory, blasting three home runs and sending six men across the plate.
Sophomore catcher Robbie Coman creamed Baker’s full-count offering into the left-field bleachers leading off the frame for his first career long ball. The Cavaliers proceeded to load the bases on singles from junior third baseman Kenny Towns and freshman shortstop Daniel Pinero and the first of junior first baseman Mike Papi’s three walks.
The next at-bat, McCarthy skied Baker’s 3-2 pitch toward the right-field stands. Spider senior right fielder Nick Poulos roamed back slowly, looking ready to make the catch several feet in front of the warning track, but the ball stayed airborne long enough to clear the wall for a grand slam.
“Off the bat, I’m looking up — I’m like, ‘All right, good, sac fly, we get a run, let’s do this,’” McCarthy said. “Just one of those things where I guess I got a good piece of it, got it high enough and it just left the yard.”
Fisher matched his teammates two batters later, laying into a 2-1 toss from senior right-hander Andrew Blum for his second home run in as many days. The Cavaliers’ offensive outburst ended only when Towns lined out to left in his second at-bat of the frame.
“It’s good to see Fisher back in the lineup [and] back to his normal self,” McCarthy said. “You know, it’s good to just see the bats come alive, and hopefully it just brings a lot of energy to the rest of the team.”
Bettinger was already throwing darts, spotting his fastball and bender where the Spider batters could not touch it, and he kept his performance level high with the big lead in his care. The midweek man almost tripled his career high in strikeouts in his six scoreless innings of work, fanning 11 and yielding just one hit.
“I was just trying to attack the zone,” Bettinger said. “I just happened to miss their bats sometimes. They were guessing a little bit, I think.”
Virginia played past 11 p.m. Tuesday, battling Virginia Commonwealth for 10 innings before escaping with the win on junior center fielder Brandon Downes’ go-ahead solo shot. The Cavaliers did not get back to Charlottesville until after 1 a.m., and O’Connor said Wednesday marked the first time this year he had not shaved on game-day.
“Last night was obviously a very, very emotional ballgame,” O’Connor said. “Late innings, late into the night. … It was a short night’s rest for us all.”
Virginia, though, showed no signs of tiring as the game moved into the late innings. The Cavaliers plated four runs in the eighth inning, when freshman pinch hitter Tyler Allen tallied the first hit of his collegiate career.
Virginia now travels to Florida State for a three-game weekend series with the No. 5 Seminoles and Heisman-winning redshirt freshman closer Jameis Winston. The games promise to be highly competitive and entertaining.
“Florida State is a top team in the country, and they’re the type of teams that you’re going to see in the playoffs and if you make it to a Super or even Omaha,” McCarthy said. “This is a good test that we’ve got in front of us right now, and we’re going to go into this weekend, we’re going to compete and we’re going to hopefully get it done.”