Baseball sweeps Pittsburgh at home

Season’s best pitching weekend propels Virginia to first ACC sweep

spbaseballknightcbengson

Junior catcher Caleb Knight hit a three-run home run in Virginia's, 5-2, win over Pittsburgh.  

Chelsea Bengson | Cavalier Daily

The Virginia baseball team (26-8, 8-7 ACC) earned its first conference sweep this weekend, downing Pittsburgh (14-15, 6-9 ACC) in three straight games. The sweep puts Virginia above .500 in the ACC for the first time this season.

Virginia opened the series against Pittsburgh with one of its most complete performances of the season Friday. The Cavaliers once again got off to a hot start at the plate when sophomore second baseman Andy Weber belted his second homer of the season in his first at bat. Junior first baseman Pavin Smith — the hottest slugger on the team right now — added an RBI single in the first frame to put Virginia up 2-0.

Power hitting continued to extend Virginia’s lead in the third inning. Junior outfielder Adam Haseley blasted his tenth home run of the season — a solo shot — and graduate catcher Robbie Coman followed with a two-run shot of his own to put the Cavaliers up 5-1. Haseley’s homer extended his hitting streak to 14 games, and he had two hits in the game.

Smith would continue his dominance at the plate with a bases-clearing double in the fifth inning to break the game open. The hit gave Smith an incredible 19 RBIs in the past five games, four of which came Friday.

The Cavaliers’ performance at the plate undoubtedly helped take the edge off junior starter Derek Casey, but the righty still gave another sensational performance on the mound. Casey fired seven innings of one-run ball for Virginia, striking out nine and walking only two while only giving up three hits. The strong start dropped his ERA to a mere 1.88 on the season.

"I thought Derek Casey was terrific. Certainly he set the tone for us on the mound tonight," Coach Brian O'Connor said. "This has been building up over the last couple of starts … He went out and had great command of all of his pitches and certainly got some big strikeouts.”

Sophomore reliever Grant Donahue came out of the bullpen and pitched two shutout innings to lock up the 12-1 victory for Virginia.

Runs were much harder to come by Saturday for the Cavaliers. Both teams’ starters were locked in through the first three innings, not allowing a run. Pittsburgh junior third baseman Nick Banman opened the scoring up with a solo homer off of Virginia freshman starter Noah Murdock, chasing the young righty from the game.

O’Connor explained his decision to take the freshman out so early.

Noah Murdock did a nice job, and certainly I had a short leash on him, but I didn't like how he was falling behind in the count a little too much,” O’Connor said. “I knew — having a rested Alec Bettinger — that the plan was to go to him at any point in time that I felt we needed to, and he settled things down and allowed us to do offensively what we needed to.”

Another big inning from the Virginia offense, though, would put the team up for good. The Cavaliers put up five runs in the fourth inning, finished by a three-run shot off the bat of junior catcher Caleb Knight.

O’Connor called on senior long reliever Alec Bettinger once again to hold the lead, and as usual, Bettinger did not disappoint. The senior struck out seven in 4.7 innings of relief en route to his fifth win of the season. Junior closer Tommy Doyle came in with two outs in the eighth inning and picked up his eighth save of the season, cementing the 5-2 win and a series victory for Virginia.

The Cavaliers went for the sweep of Pittsburgh Sunday and persevered through a thriller. Virginia scored sporadically through the game to build up a 4-0 lead, scoring a run each in the first, third, fourth and sixth innings. The fourth run came on a solo shot from Knight, his second of the weekend. Knight also had the defensive play of the game when he threw out a Panthers base runner at second base in the midst of Pittsburgh’s comeback.

Haseley started the game for Virginia and was lights out through six innings, not allowing a run and striking out six. His single mistake was almost very costly, however, as he allowed a three-run homer in the seventh inning to pull Pittsburgh within one. Pittsburgh had runners on first and second with one out in the ninth inning. Doyle stayed poised and closed out the tight match, earning his ninth save of the season in Virginia’s sweep-clinching, 4-3, win.

Virginia earned its victory with a solid weekend of pitching and timely hitting. The Cavaliers will host VCU at Davenport Field in the final game of its homestand Tuesday at 6 p.m. before traveling to Virginia Tech for another conference series at the end of the week. 

related stories