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Baseball ends four game losing-streak, defeats Towson

Kenny Towns goes 4-4 with three runs and three RBI’s

Seventh-ranked Virginia baseball entered Tuesday’s contest against Towson on a four-game losing streak. But that stretch of bad baseball is now over after the Cavaliers dispatched the Tigers, 8-0.

“Sometimes when things aren’t going your way there’s some extra anxiety, but our kids came out and were really loose,” coach Kevin McMullan said. “Bettinger gave us five great innings…and we played pretty much flawless defense. It was a great way to start the week.”

Sophomore Alec Bettinger made his first midweek start of the season. The righty flirted with danger in the top of the first. Sophomore catcher Brady Policelli led off the game with a jam-shot double down the leftfield line and advanced to third base on a sacrifice bunt.

With one out senior first-baseman Brendan Butler reached first on an infield popup which sophomore catcher Matt Thaiss was unable to settle underneath, but was erased on a stolen base attempt. Virginia escaped the danger by way of a Bettinger strikeout.

“I just wanted to throw strikes,” Bettinger said. “I didn’t want to give up two or three runs just trying to [save that one run].”

The Cavaliers (13-5, 2-4 ACC) mounted their first threat in the bottom of the second. Junior leftfielder Kevin Doherty worked a five-pitch, one-out walk. Fellow junior catcher Robbie Coman then singled on a hard-hit grounder through the hole at shortstop. The duo then advanced to second and third on a sacrifice bunt by freshman infielder Justin Novak.

With Virginia poised to score, Towson junior pitcher Lee Lawler struck out freshman outfielder Adam Haseley to get out of trouble.

The Cavaliers broke the scoreless deadlock in the bottom of the third. Senior third-baseman Kenny Towns battled back from a pitcher’s count and ripped a ball past third for a two-out double. The next batter up, Thaiss bounced a grounder over the pitcher’s mound that senior shortstop Peter Bowles threw into the stands to score Towns.

Clean innings were at a premium for Bettinger. The Tigers (2-14) managed five hits against the righty and put runners on the bases in four of his five innings. Still, he found ways to wiggle out of dangerous spots and did not compound problems with walks — Bettinger fanned five and walked none in a winning effort.

As a collective, Cavalier pitchers did not issue free passes to Towson. The foursome of Bettinger, sophomore Jack Roberts and juniors David Rosenberger and Josh Sborz walked only two batters.

“If you don’t give them extra bases — we call it the free 90s — you’re pretty much in every game,” McMullan said. “We did a great job of [limiting walks]…and it reflected on the scoreboard.”

Virginia’s bats woke up in their half of the fifth inning — scoring two runs on five hits and sending seven to the plate. Sophomore shortstop Daniel Pinero led off the frame with a double into left field — he banged himself up sliding into the bag but remained in the game.

With Pinero in scoring position and one out, Towns tallied his second double of the afternoon to drive home Pinero. Towns would not stay at second long as he would come home on a Thaiss single.

Prior to the fifth inning the Cavaliers struggled with runners in scoring position. Virginia batters were hitless in their first six at-bats with runners on second or third. They would finish the game going six-for-eleven in the final four innings.

The Cavaliers doubled their score in the bottom of the sixth and needed only two hits to do so. Novak led off the inning with a single, and later Policelli scored on a throwing error. Also scoring in the inning were Pinero and freshman Pavin Smith.

Virginia tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the eighth, and yet again Towns was in the middle of the action. The Burke, Virginia native drove home Haseley on a wall-ball double down the right field line. Freshman infielder Ernie Clement would drive home Towns with a single later in the inning.

The lone senior in the Cavaliers’ lineup, Towns served as a catalyst going four-for-four with three doubles, three runs and three driven in.

“Any time you can get your upperclassman who has a lot of experience going, it relaxes the dugout and gives the guys confidence,” McMullan said.

Cavalier batters racked up 12 hits in total.

“This was the first time in a few games where we got back-to-back hits and big innings,” Towns said. “It was nice to get that contagious hitting going.”

Virginia was uncharacteristically fleet of foot on the basepaths. The Cavaliers stole five bases against Tigers pitching. Going into Tuesday, Virginia had swiped eight bags all season.

“It was a favorable matchup with the battery,” McMullan said. “They were deliberate to the plate, and we had a lot of traffic over there [on first].”

Tuesday’s decimation of Towson serves as a tremendous confidence boost prior to a tough three-game home series against No. 12 Florida State March 20–22.


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