No. 19 Virginia baseball won its 25th game of the season Tuesday night against Longwood, but the triumph came at a high price. The high-octane Cavalier offense propelled the team to victory, but the injury bug bit two key pieces in the 14-4 win against the Lancers (17-21, 5-10 Big South).
“That was a heck of a win for us,” coach Brian O’Connor said.
The game plan was simple for freshman starter Derek Casey — work a few efficient innings before leaving the game in preparation for the weekend. Initially, all was going to plan. Casey allowed one unearned run in the first inning then faced the minimum in the second.
But it all came unraveled in the third. Casey’s payoff pitch to junior Kyri Washington sailed to the backstop. The Mechanicsville, Virginia native immediately gestured with his right hand, which prompted O’Connor, pitching coach Karl Kuhn and the trainer to visit the mound. Shortly thereafter, junior David Rosenberger replaced Casey.
“There’s something with his arm,” O’Connor said. “I don’t know for sure what it is until we get a chance to examine it with our doctors. It’s unfortunate and we feel for him … Through your experience, you see a guy make one pitch and you know something’s wrong. The fact that it was 84 mile per hour on the scoreboard and you could just see his body when he threw the ball.”
A half inning prior, Virginia (25-15, 9-12 ACC) lost its starting shortstop. In a heart-stopping incident, junior Allen Ellis’ first delivery drilled sophomore Daniel Pinero in the face. The Toronto, Ontario native crumpled to the ground, but eventually stood up and left the field with minimum assistance.
“[Pinero] is okay,” O’Connor said. “He got hit on the chin with the baseball, and he had to go get stitches. I wouldn’t be surprised if [Pinero] plays tomorrow.”
As he did Friday night, Rosenberger ate innings and spared the bullpen. The lefty worked 3.3 innings and retired six of his first seven batters before running into trouble in the sixth. The first four Longwood batters reached base, and the Lancers scored three runs off the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania native.
“Over the past couple of outings I’ve been more and more confident — just believing in myself more,” Rosenberger said. “I’m looking forward to more and more opportunities.”
Freshman Jack Roberts entered in the seventh inning and bored through the Longwood batters before running into trouble in the ninth. Roberts retired the first six men he faced, but allowed two runs in the final inning on a homer by freshman Tyler Barry. More importantly, the Richmond, Virginia native did not walk a man — he entered the game walking one man an inning.
The Cavaliers’ offensive production allowed Rosenberger and Roberts to attack the zone. Virginia batters racked up 14 runs on 16 hits and gave the pitching staff a wide margin of error in which to work.
“Offensively, I thought we were tremendous tonight,” O’Connor said. “They run a bunch of different pitchers out there, and I thought collectively we swung the bat really well.”
The bats struck early and often, scoring five runs in the first and piling on from there. Nine Cavalier batters recorded a hit — five tallied multiple base knocks.
“We have great hitters on this team,” sophomore Matt Thaiss said. “I think we’re a great offense … We do the job when we need to.”
Thaiss led all men with four hits, four RBI and two runs scored. He launched his eighth home run of the season in the bottom of the fourth — a three-run bomb over the bleachers in right field. Additionally, Thaiss was a triple shy of the cycle.
“I think I let the ball travel a little better today,” Thaiss said. “I saw the ball a little better and let it get deeper on me.”
Virginia received more bad news following the game. A MRI confirmed junior Nathan Kirby’s injury as a left lat strain. The lefty will not need surgery but will miss 6-8 weeks.
“I know what Nathan Kirby is made of,” O’Connor said. “I know how much he wants to contribute to this team’s success, and it’s unfortunate for him and for our team.”
The Cavaliers will need to focus less on injury and more on game play as they host Liberty Wednesday night at 6 p.m.