Virginia rebuffs Ole Miss in Omaha opener
Papi cranks walk-off double with two outs in bottom of ninth, scoring Woodruff
All season long, the Virginia baseball team has thrived on lockdown pitching and exemplary defense. Sunday night in Omaha, the No. 3 Cavaliers rode those staples — and some timely hitting — to a 2-1 walk-off win against the University of Mississippi in the College World Series.
Junior first baseman Mike Papi slammed the game-winning double to right-center field with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, turning on Rebels senior right-hander Aaron Greenwood’s full-count pitch to drive in fleet-footed junior pinch runner Thomas Woodruff.
Virginia (50-14, 22-8 ACC) and Ole Miss (46-21, 19-11 SEC) battled past 11 p.m. at TD Ameritrade Park, with the Cavaliers scoring once in the fifth and the Rebels countering in the eighth before Papi’s clutch hit.
Virginia sophomore left-hander Nathan Kirby and Ole Miss junior right-hander Chris Ellis dueled at the level expected of No. 1 starters, posting seven and six-plus innings of one-run baseball, respectively.
Kirby was more efficient than his Rebel counterpart, yielding just one hit and three walks while throwing 84 pitches, but Ellis kept Ole Miss in the game by shutting down Virginia’s scoring chances. The Cavaliers left eight men on base through six innings.
Junior second baseman Branden Cogswell made his way on base four times during the night, pulling in three walks and a single. His free pass leading off the seventh prompted the Ole Miss coaching staff to remove Ellis in favor of senior left-hander Jeremy Massie.
Junior catcher Nate Irving ignited the Cavaliers’ ninth-inning rally with a leadoff walk against Greenwood. Virginia immediately substituted in Woodruff for the slower Irving, and the pinch runner moved to second on Cogswell’s sacrifice bunt. Greenwood retired freshman shortstop Daniel Pinero on strikes, but he could not sit down Papi to send the game into extra innings.
The Father’s Day win places Virginia in the winner’s bracket, where the team will meet No. 7 TCU on Tuesday at 8 p.m., once again at TD Ameritrade Park.