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No. 7 baseball drops two against Seminoles

Pitching struggles as Cavaliers fall to 3-6 in conference play

No. 7 Virginia baseball dropped two of three against conference rival No. 11 Florida State.

Virginia (14-7, 3-6 ACC) required late-inning heroics to topple the Seminoles (19-6, 7-2 ACC) 8-4 in the first game of the series.

Florida State got to junior pitcher Nathan Kirby for three runs in the second inning. After striking out the leadoff batter, the ace dropped an underhand toss from freshman Pavin Smith to put senior Josh Delph aboard. From there, the Seminoles rallied off three consecutive singles. A bobbled relay exchange by senior Kenny Towns accounted for the final run of the frame.

Kirby struggled with his control early on. He walked four batters—including three straight in the first inning—in the first three frames. The Midlothian, Va. native would not issue a free pass during the remainder of his outing.

“I kept getting behind, and they made me pay for it,” Kirby said. “I’ve been lucky to get out a lot of those situations, but it came back to bite me today.”

The Cavaliers scored twice in their half of the second inning. Towns turned on the first pitch he saw for a leadoff single, and sophomore Matt Thaiss walked to put runners on first and second with no outs. Following a sacrifice bunt by freshman centerfielder Ernie Clement, junior Kevin Doherty drove home both Towns and Thaiss with a hard-hit grounder up the middle.

Virginia was running out of daylight as they entered the seventh inning trailing 4-3. When the dust settled, the Cavaliers hung five runs on the board and sent 11 batters to the plate. Both Towns and Thaiss drove home two with a single and double, respectively. Clement also contributed to the barrage with a run-scoring single.

The trio of Towns, Thaiss and Clement propelled Virginia’s offense on Friday. The collective batted five-for-ten with six RBIs and five runs scored. In the fifth-inning, Thaiss launched a 435-foot home run that sailed out of Davenport Field.

Doherty’s two-way heroics made him the star of the game. The Laytonsville, Md. native started in left field, drove in two runs, and earned his first career win as he threw 1.1 innings of shutout ball in relief of Kirby.

“I didn’t [expect to pitch tonight],” Doherty said. “But I was supposed to be prepared to pitch.”

Kirby went six innings and allowed four runs—two earned. He worked around traffic all game long, he allowed six hits and four walks, but he did fan 11. Junior Josh Sborz pitched the final 1.2 innings to earn his fifth save on the year.

Saturday’s contest was a high-scoring and a back-and-forth affair which the Seminoles won 12-10.

“I was proud of our team,” O’Connor said. “We certainly hung in there and battled. It’s an example that if you don’t throw the ball over the plate enough it’s going to be tough to win.”

The Cavaliers jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the second inning before Florida State came up big in the fifth.

To that point, sophomore Connor Jones was cruising. He struck out freshman Dylan Busby to start the inning—he was the ninth consecutive batter retired by Jones. Busby would also be the final out recorded by Jones. A walk, a hit, and a single loaded the bases. Junior John Sansone then punished Jones with a grand slam home run.

The Cavaliers entered the seventh inning trailing 8-3, but scored five to tie the game. The stalemate would not last for long as Stewart hit a solo shot in the eighth.

Virginia responded with two more in the bottom of the inning to take a 10-9 lead into the ninth. Florida State then hit two home runs off Sborz.

Virginia turned to junior lefthander Brandon Waddell in Sunday’s rubber match, but the Seminoles would cruise to a 13-1 victory.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” O’Connor said. “I’ve never seen us with that kind of command trouble.”

Waddell could not key into the strike zone in the first inning, throwing only 12 strikes out of 32 pitches. The Houston, Texas native walked three batters in the opening frame, and Florida State made him pay to the tune of four runs. Freshman Dylan Busby took a Waddell delivery over the left-center wall for a three-run homer.

A model of control in 2014, Waddell walked only 19 batters in 114 innings. Through 31 innings in 2015, Waddell has walked 12 batters—including five in six innings of work in a losing effort Sunday.

“You try not to think about mechanics while you’re out there, but when you start struggling it’s your nature to wonder what could be changing with each pitch,” Waddell said.

Once again, the free 90s contributed to a Seminole run in the top of the fourth. Waddell retired the first two batters before walking Stewart. Sophomore first baseman Quincy Nieporte doubled into right-center to score Stewart. Suddenly, Florida State appeared to be on their way to a big inning. Marconcini singled hard into right, but the big arm of Haseley gunned down Nieporte at home to save a run and end the inning.

Meanwhile, the Cavalier batters could not solve Florida State freshman Cobi Johnson. In seven innings of work, Virginia managed just one run on five hits off the Seminole righty.

Florida State put the game on ice with a five-run seventh inning, and once again Cavalier pitching could not find the zone. Sophomore Jack Roberts walked both batters he faced, and O’Connor quickly replaced him with sophomore Alec Bettinger, who could fare no better. Bettinger walked two and surrendered a back-breaking grand slam to Stewart—the only hit in the inning.

Virginia pitchers issued 15 walks on Sunday. The staff walked 34 batters over the three-game series.

The Cavaliers look to bounce back this week with a Tuesday home game against Georgetown and a Wednesday game on the road against Liberty.


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