Baseball rallies to 8-4 victory over Old Dominion
No. 21 Virginia baseball (27-17, 11-10 ACC) found itself in an early hole Tuesday afternoon at Harbor Park, where in-state rival Old Dominion hadn’t lost a game to the Cavaliers since 2006.
The Monarchs (25-16, 8-10 C-USA) plated four runs in the bottom of the second inning. Sophomore lefthander Bennett Sousa, whose control issues have surfaced at times this season and last, fell behind each of the first two hitters he faced in that frame.
The first Old Dominion batter pulled Sousa’s 2-1 pitch down the line in left for a leadoff double, and the second jumped on a 1-0 delivery, smacking an RBI-triple to the wall in left center.
Sousa, regrouping, then produced exactly what he needed, a 1-0 pop up to junior catcher Matt Thaiss that kept the Monarch baserunner on third base. Pitching coach Karl Kuhn and Sousa opted to intentionally walk freshman third baseman Seth Woodard to set up an inning-ending double play ball.
That ideal didn’t happen, as sophomore left fielder Justin Hayes drove in the second Old Dominion run with a 2-2 single up the middle. Sousa secured a second out five pitches later, striking out the nine-hole batter, before allowing another three-bagger that found the gap in left center. This one extended the Monarch lead to 4-0.
But a resilient Virginia group battled back. The rest of the way the Cavaliers outscored Old Dominion 8-0, scoring at least one run in each of their next seven frames at the dish. Sophomore first baseman Pavin Smith singled in the first Virginia run in the third and drilled the game-tying homer in the fifth. He finished a perfect 3-3 with three RBIs and a run scored.
Thaiss collected the go-ahead RBI double in the sixth and launched his team-leading seventh home run in the eighth to give Virginia a three-run cushion. Freshman right fielder Cameron Simmons added another insurance run in the ninth. His single back through the box capped off an impressive 3-5, 2 RBI day.
After Sousa’s quick exit, two Cavalier arms pitched exceptionally well Tuesday. Junior transfer Tyler Shambora tossed four and a third shutout innings, surrendering only three hits, and senior lefty Kevin Doherty blanked the Monarchs over two and two-thirds to record his first save of 2016.
Having won seven of its last 10 games, including two of three at No. 1 Miami over the weekend, Virginia is peaking at the right moment. The Cavaliers will travel to Pittsburgh Friday for their final ACC road series of the regular season.