The fourth-seeded Cavaliers entered the ACC tournament in Louisville, Ky. looking to make some noise. They began tournament play Thursday afternoon against the ninth-seeded Duke Blue Devils.
Virginia (41-14, 18-12 ACC) was hot down the stretch of the regular season, winning its final six ACC series. In their final series against Georgia Tech, the Cavaliers showed power in a dominant 16-3 victory and exposed their clutch gene, winning 10-9 in their final regular season game.
The Cavaliers looked to continue their dominance against Duke (28-27, 12-18 ACC), having won two of three in their regular season matchup. The Blue Devils had already racked up a needed victory Tuesday against fifth-seeded Clemson — Virginia’s next opponent — in tournament pool play.
Virginia entered the 3 p.m. contest at Louisville Slugger Field starting junior right-handed pitcher Derek Casey. Duke opened the scoring in the bottom of the first inning, bringing one runner in off of two early hits. Casey calmed down by the bottom of the third, picking up his third strikeout of the evening.
Graduate catcher Robbie Coman drove in the Cavaliers’ first run in the top of the fourth inning, resulting in a 2-1 lead for Virginia. Casey’s location continued to improve, going one, two, three in the fifth.
Things got hectic for Virginia in the bottom of the sixth, and Coach Brian O’Connor brought in senior right-handed pitcher Alec Bettinger with the bases loaded as relief. Bettinger could not stop the bleeding, however, as Duke produced three runs in the inning.
Virginia tried to get its offense going in the top of the seventh, scoring a run on a ground out to bring the lead within one at 3-4. The game drew close in the top of the ninth as the Cavaliers moved a runner to third base.
However, Virginia could not get the job done and Duke moved on with the 4-3 victory. With this loss, Virginia is eliminated from advancing to the ACC Tournament Championship.
The Cavaliers continue pool play Friday at noon against Clemson (39-18, 17-13). That game will be played on Louisville’s campus at Jim Patterson Stadium.