No. 16 baseball sweeps Towson in two-game set
Virginia next faces Duke Friday at Davenport Field
The No. 16 Virginia baseball team got back to its winning ways this week, downing Towson (8-7) in both match ups of a two game series.
Virginia (17-5, 2-4 ACC) came off a tough weekend against Clemson in which the Cavaliers allowed 19 runs in the final two games of the series. In response, the Virginia pitching staff delivered two admirable performances against the Clemson Tigers to get back in the win column.
The first game of the set between the Cavaliers and Towson Tigers was a low-scoring pitcher’s duel until the end. Virginia found ways to manufacture runs early, as sophomore designated hitter Nate Eikhoff opened up the scoring in the second inning with an RBI groundout. The Cavaliers would get another run in the third when junior shortstop Ernie Clement scored sophomore outfielder Jake McCarthy on a sac fly after McCarthy legged out a triple. Clement scored McCarthy again in the sixth inning on an RBI single after McCarthy stole his 14th base of the season.
Towson’s pitching performance largely took away the big hits that usually fuel Virginia’s offense, forcing the the team to play small ball. Fortunately for the Cavaliers, they benefitted from a solid performance from junior starting pitcher Derek Casey, who allowed one run and struck out five batters in six innings of work. Casey exited his last start against Monmouth after being hit on the wrist with a ball in play, but showed no signs of struggle as he dominated the Tiger bats. Casey lowered his ERA to a team leading 2.37 in yet another quality start.
Looking to lock up the win, coach Brian O’Connor put in junior closer Tommy Doyle in the eighth inning to pitch for a two-inning save. Doyle allowed his first run of the season to reduce Virginia’s lead to 3-2, but he provided the most clutch play of the game when he picked off the next batter to end the eighth inning. Doyle mowed down the Tigers in the ninth inning to secure a 3-2 victory and his fifth save of the season.
In the second game of the series Wednesday, Virginia wasted no time matching its scoring from the last game. The Cavaliers plated four runs in the first inning, highlighted by a two-run triple from sophomore second baseman Andy Weber. Towson’s pitching was erratic to say the least — despite only having one hit in the game, Virginia took a 6-0 lead in the third inning after three walks issued by sophomore starting pitcher Alex Cuas.
The Cavaliers’ quick strikes made life easier for sophomore relief pitcher Chesdin Harrington on the mound, who came from the bullpen to make his first start of the year. Harrington allowed no runs and struck out three in three innings of work in the spot-start.
Towson would score three runs between the fifth and sixth innings, but Virginia added insurance runs to keep the Tigers from striking distance. One run came when junior outfielder Pavin Smith went deep in the bottom of the fifth inning — his sixth of the year. The back end of the Virginia bullpen mostly quieted the Tigers’ offense from there, and Virginia held on for an 8-4 victory.
Virginia will ride a two-game win streak into its first home ACC series of the season. The visitors will be Duke, who is coming off of a 10-3 victory against Maryland-Eastern Shore Tuesday.
After losing its first four games to start the season, the Blue Devils (11-11, 3-3 ACC) have clawed their way back over .500 in conference play, but they have been very streaky. The team does have a 2-1 ACC series win against Virginia Tech, but it dropped its most recent series at home to Wake Forest, 1-2.
The Blue Devils don’t hit for much power — rather, they have solid speed on the base paths. Three starters have swiped over five bags this season, and in total the team is 35-44 in stolen base attempts. Duke also doesn’t have a very deep rotation, though Virginia will probably run into its ace pitcher, junior Ryan Day — who is sporting a 2.33 ERA.
Both Virginia and Duke will take the field this weekend to try to improve on their mediocre ACC records. First pitch in game one of the series is scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday at Davenport Field.