Virginia advances to College World Series Finals
No. 3 Cavaliers defeat Ole Miss, 4-1, for first-ever championship appearance
The Virginia baseball team walked off the field on Saturday afternoon at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha the winner of 52 games in 2014 and 463 since coach Brian O’Connor arrived in Charlottesville 11 years ago.
Virginia’s 4-1 storm-delayed victory against Mississippi, however, was not just one more in a long list of wins. Behind gutsy sophomore right-hander Josh Sborz, dominant relief pitching and resilient offense, the No. 3 Cavaliers (52-14, 22-8 ACC) advanced to the College World Series Finals for the first time in program history.
Sborz lacked the sharpness Saturday he displayed in the first inning Friday night, when he recorded three outs on seven pitches before lightning halted play and ultimately forced the game’s overnight suspension. Back at it the next day, Ole Miss (48-21, 19-11 SEC) scored in the second inning and loaded the bases for senior designated hitter Will Allen in the third.
But Allen lined out, and Sborz pitched two more scoreless frames before exiting with 81 pitches and 45 strikes to his name.
Senior right-hander Artie Lewicki shut down the Rebel offense in his three innings on the hill, and junior closer Nick Howard registered the game’s last three outs, upping the Virginia bullpen’s scoreless innings streak to 14 since the team touched down in Omaha.
The Cavalier lineup, meanwhile, grabbed the lead for good with a three-run top of the fourth.
Virginia loaded the bases against Ole Miss junior right-hander Chris Ellis on the strength of sophomore right fielder Joe McCarthy’s leadoff walk, junior center fielder Brandon Downes’ one-out single and sophomore designated hitter John La Prise’s subsequent free pass.
Sophomore catcher Robbie Coman then delivered a two-run single to right field in what would prove to be the game-winning hit. Junior second baseman Branden Cogswell followed with a sacrifice bunt down the first-base line that scored La Prise.
Virginia picked up an insurance run when McCarthy doubled home freshman shortstop Daniel Pinero with two outs in the seventh.
The Cavaliers will face the winner of tonight’s game between Texas and Vanderbilt in the finals, which are played best of three. Game one is scheduled for 8 p.m. Monday, and will be televised on ESPN.