The No. 11 Virginia baseball team battled Notre Dame this weekend, looking to win its third ACC series in a row. The Cavaliers (33-10, 12-9 ACC) bested the Fighting Irish (18-22, 8-13 ACC) in two of three games at Davenport Field to take the set.
The teams started off the weekend with a doubleheader Friday after an inclement weather schedule change. After a 20-minute weather delay, game one began with a bang as each team plated two runs in the first inning. After allowing a leadoff homer and a second run in the first, Virginia junior starter Adam Haseley settled down and grinded for six innings, not allowing another run and striking out five.
The Cavaliers took advantage of a costly Notre Dame error to plate three runs in the second inning, and from there the offense poured on the runs. Virginia scored three runs in the third, fourth and sixth innings to amass a total of 14 for the game. The Fighting Irish did not help their case with some fatal mistakes, including an error in the fourth inning causing three runs to score and three straight wild pitches leading to runs in the sixth. Haseley led the team with three RBIs on two hits, while sophomore outfielder Cameron Simmons and junior shortstop Ernie Clement had three hits each. The Cavaliers took a 14-4 victory in the game and went right into the nightcap.
Notre Dame got back into the series with a win in the second game, fueled by stellar pitching. Graduate starter Michael Hearne pitched a gem for the Fighting Irish, not allowing a single hit to Virginia through six innings and not allowing a run until the ninth. Hearne shut Virginia out for eight innings in total while striking out six Cavaliers.
Conversely, the Cavalier pitchers struggled from the mound as the team’s defense fell apart behind them. Junior starter Derek Casey had his second rough start in a row, pitching only two-plus innings and walking three before Coach Brian O’Connor took him from the game. Two walks issued by Casey in the second led to a homer off the bat of freshman first baseman Daniel Jung. The Virginia bullpen allowed four more runs to score in the game while the defense committed three errors behind them. The Cavaliers’ ninth inning comeback proved too little and too late as Notre Dame stole the second game of the series, 8-2.
Virginia faced an important rubber match Saturday, needing another ACC series win to improve its tournament record. The Cavaliers at bat wasted no time getting out frustration from the previous night, plating six runs in the bottom of the first to take a commanding lead over the Fighting Irish. Haseley belted his team-leading 12th home run to cap the rally.
The Cavaliers were not done there from the dish, as junior catcher Caleb Knight continued his recent hot streak with a solo homer in the third inning — his fourth of the season. Junior outfielder Jake McCarthy legged out his ACC-leading fifth triple of the year the same inning, plating two more runs as Virginia jumped out to a 9-0 lead.
Freshman starter Noah Murdock showed tremendous poise on the mound in the fifth start of his career. Though he walked four batters and only struck out three, Murdock battled through command issues and did not allow a run in 6.3 innings of work to secure the win.
"Noah Murdock pitched around some walks. He's learning and growing, and he didn't let those walks beat him. He managed to pitch around them and give us a great, quality start,” O’Connor said.
Senior long reliever Alec Bettinger came in and pitched 2.6 innings of nearly flawless relief to end the game. Virginia bounced back and won the series with a 9-0 victory Saturday.
“Our guys responded like we needed to and won a key ACC series. I'm proud of our guys for finding a way to win the series," O’Connor said.
Virginia battled around some inconsistencies this weekend to pick up an important series win over visiting Notre Dame. The team’s emerging hitters all managed to stay hot — Knight hit 4-8, Simmons hit 5-13 and McCarthy went 5-11 at the dish this weekend.
The Cavaliers return to action Tuesday when they host Radford for a midweek game. The team then travels to Tallahassee, Fla. next weekend to take on Florida State in its third to last ACC series.