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No. 14 Virginia baseball takes game one of Super Regional against No. 15 Maryland, 5-3

Three-run double by junior Kevin Doherty caps decisive five-run eighth inning

No. 14 Virginia baseball entered the eighth inning on the wrong side of a 3-0 score Friday afternoon, but as has been the case throughout the NCAA tournament, the Cavaliers turned it on when it counted the most to take the first game of the Charlottesville Super Regional against 15th-ranked Maryland and took the contest 5-3.

“I’m really proud of our team today,” coach Brian O’Connor said about the game.

Two selections to the 2015 U.S. Collegiate National Team — Virginia sophomore Connor Jones and Maryland sophomore Mike Shawaryn — opposed one another on the mound, and the starting pitching did not disappoint.

Jones grinded his way through seven innings of three-run ball while surrendering three hits, walking five and striking out four.

“For me, the story of today’s ballgame was Connor going out there, hanging in there and giving us the sixth and seventh innings to give us a chance to do what we did in the eighth,” O’Connor said.

Shawaryn scattered seven hits across 7.1 innings. The Terrapin right-hander allowed two runs, walked a batter and struck out five.

“My command was there for the first couple of innings, and towards the end [Virginia] started putting together good at-bats,” Shawaryn said. “I thought I battled pretty well until the end.”

Virginia (38-22, 15-15 ACC) faced three opportunities with runners in scoring position in the first five innings and balked at each one.

The Cavaliers put runners on the corners with only one out in the second inning with consecutive singles by freshman Pavin Smith and junior Robbie Coman, but Shawaryn retired the next two batters to escape from the early trouble.

Two innings later, Virginia again put a man 90 feet from home and once again left him standing there at the end of the frame. Sophomore Matt Thaiss led off the fourth with a double on a frozen-rope liner to right-center field. Senior Kenny Towns, the next batter up, struck out swinging. Smith was able to advance Thaiss with a ball to the first baseman, but a Coman groundout ended the scoring threat.

Virginia squandered another scoring chance during the next inning. Junior Joe McCarthy hit a leadoff single, and with junior Kevin Doherty batting, McCarthy stole second base and advanced to third on an errant throw from junior catcher Kevin Martir. Doherty struck out for the first out of the inning. Freshman Ernie Clement then followed with another strikeout, and Haseley grounded out to end the inning.

Through the first five innings the Cavaliers were 0-8 with runners in scoring position and 0-3 with runners at third and fewer than two outs.

Held without a hit into the fourth inning, Maryland manufactured their first scoring opportunity in the fifth inning and did not let the moment pass them by. The Terrapins alternated walks with outs to load the bases with two down in the inning. Junior LaMonte Wade, the Maryland leadoff batter, hit a sinking liner into center field, which went off the glove of a sliding Haseley to plate two.

The Terrapins pushed their lead to 3-0 with an exemplary display of offensive execution in the bottom of the seventh. Junior Jose Cuas began the inning with a double, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt, and scored on a suicide squeeze bunt by Biondic.

After knocking throughout the game, Virginia bashed the door off its hinges in a five-run eighth inning in which the Cavaliers sent nine batters to the plate.

Haseley led off the eighth with a lineout to short. The next four men would reach base. Singles by sophomore Daniel Pinero and Thaiss chased Shawaryn from the game.

“Shawaryn went out there and lights out — he was used all of his pitches well,” Towns said. “He was keeping us of balance enough to get us off our groove. We kept fighting, and [Pinero] put a good swing on a breaking ball to get us going.”

Facing junior closer Kevin Mooney, Towns and Smith hit consecutive singles to push two runs across. Following a Coman groundout, the Terrapins intentionally walked McCarthy to load the bases for Doherty.

Twice before, Doherty came up short with a man in scoring position, but this time would be different. Doherty crushed a ball to the wall in left-center. Wade nearly made an outstanding leaping snag, but the ball glanced off his glove. When the dust settled, Doherty stood at second with a bases-clearing double.

“I was kind of overmatched by fastballs,” Doherty said. “In that at-bat I took the mentality to be very aggressive…pretty much, don’t let a fastball for a strike pass.”

O’Connor turned to his closer, junior Josh Sborz for the final six outs of the game. Sborz allowed a single to the first batter he faced, then retired the next six to lock down the Virginia victory.

The Cavaliers are now one win away from returning to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. O’Connor knows that a trip Omaha is close, yet still miles away.

“Once you start thinking about being one win away from something … you can cloud your thoughts a little bit,” O’Connor said. “This team has certainly earned the opportunity to play tomorrow, and I think they will come out and be aggressive and loose.”

Maryland coach John Szefc said he is not overwhelmed by the prospects of being down 0-1 in the series. In last year’s Charlottesville Super Regional, the Terrapins won game one before losing the next two.

“When you’re going into a three-game series you come in knowing you need to win two games,” Szefc said. “I told my guys we got here because of our toughness and we’ll stay here because of our toughness.”

Junior Brandon Waddell takes the mound for Virginia in game two Saturday. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m.