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Virginia records a pair of walk-off wins and sweeps Wake Forest in weekend series

After dominating the Demon Deacons in the series-opener, the Cavaliers produced consecutive walk-offs to complete its first sweep of the year

<p>Andrew Abbott capped off his tenure at Disharoon Park Friday with 16 strikeouts and a well-deserved standing ovation.</p>

Andrew Abbott capped off his tenure at Disharoon Park Friday with 16 strikeouts and a well-deserved standing ovation.

Virginia recorded its third-straight ACC series win over the weekend, toppling Wake Forest with a combined 28 runs in three games. Friday’s win was a no-doubter as the Cavaliers (25-21, 16-17 ACC) shut out the Demon Deacons (17-26, 7-22 ACC) 17-0, but in the subsequent two meetings the teams battled tooth-and-nail through all nine innings. Virginia secured two exciting walk-off victories to complete its first sweep against an ACC opponent since 2019. 

Game 1 — Virginia 17, Wake Forest 0

The Cavaliers opened up the series with a bang, pitching their seventh no-hitter in program history and finishing up by 17 runs. Three pitchers combined on the effort, including senior left-hander Andrew Abbott, freshman left-hander Jake Berry and senior right-hander Griff McGarry. Abbott pitched 7.1 innings, was replaced by Berry for 0.2 innings then sent off in favor of McGarry for the final inning.

Every moment in the game was electric, both offensively and defensively. 10 Virginia batters recorded a cumulative 14 hits in the contest. Four Cavaliers put on multi-hit performances, including junior infielder Zack Gelof, senior outfielder Brendan Rivoli, sophomore infielder Max Cotier and sophomore outfielder Chris Newell.  Most of this action happened in the middle of the game, with 15 of the 17 being scored in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.

On the mound, Berry and McGarry combined to strike out four batters in the game’s final moments. Before this, Abbott threw 105 pitches, walked two batters and struck out 16 throughout the contest.

“Abbott was just amazing,” Coach Brian O’Connor said. “To see him do what he did tonight in his last game in our uniform [at Disharoon Park] was really, really special.”

On his way off the field, he was met with a standing ovation from fans at Disharoon Park — the most fitting way to end his last home game as a Cavalier.

Game 2 — Virginia 6, Wake Forest 5

After a commanding season-opener Friday night, Virginia clinched the series in a walk-off effort to produce a 6-5 victory over Wake Forest Saturday. The decisive at-bat came in the bottom of the ninth as freshman first baseman Jake Gelof sliced a bases-loaded single up the middle to score the winning run. The victory marked the third-straight ACC series win as the Cavaliers have won seven of their last 10 games. 

Zack and Jake Gelof as well as Cotier each accounted for two hits in the matchup,  and Virginia edged the Demon Deacons 9-8 in hits through nine innings. Trailing 2-0 in the top of the second, the Cavaliers responded with a four-run inning, but fell behind again as Wake Forest scored three runs in the subsequent frame to take a 5-4 lead. In the sixth inning, senior pinch-hitter Alex Tappen knotted the score at five with a solo home run to left field. 

Junior right-hander Mike Vasil pitched 2.1 innings to start the game, and junior right-hander Zach Messinger came in for relief to throw the next 3.2 innings, striking out six batters and allowing just three hits in an impressive performance on the hill. Junior left-hander Brandon Neeck and senior right-hander Black Bales similarly fended off the Wake Forest offense and allowed no runs or hits to secure the win.

“I’m really proud of our bullpen —  [Zach] Messinger, [Brandon] Neeck and [Blake] Bales all did a tremendous job,” O’Connor said. “If any of those guys give up a run, we don’t win that ball game.”

The seventh and eighth innings remained scoreless, and with the game tied, the Demon Deacons were unable to produce the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth. As the possibility of extra innings loomed, Virginia was able to load the bases to set up Gelof for the game-winning at-bat and record the walk-off victory. 

“We scrapped offensively, that four-run second was a big inning for us and we had numerous opportunities to score more runs — I don’t know how many runners we left on, but it felt like a lot,” O’Connor said. “Fortunately, we were able to come through there in the bottom of the ninth. It’s great finding a way to win those kind of ball games.”

Game 3 — Virginia 5, Wake Forest 4

The Cavaliers closed out the series with yet another walk-off win Sunday to sweep the Demon Deacons. Sophomore left-hander Nate Savino started on the mound for Virginia and threw six innings, allowing two runs and striking out a career-high six batters. Graduate student right-hander Stephen Schoch recorded the save after two innings pitched, giving up just one hit to keep the game tied heading into the bottom of the ninth. 

The Cavaliers got on the board first, scoring three runs in the bottom of the second to take an early lead. Newell hit a grounder to the left side to bring in a run, and Jake Gelof followed suit with a ground-rule double to push the lead to 3-0. 

In the top of the fourth, Newell made a diving catch in left-center field, laying out to save a run from scoring. Wake Forest was able to add two more runs to the board in the fifth and seventh innings as the game was tied 3-3 heading into the eighth. 

The Demon Deacons took their first lead of the matchup with a sacrifice fly to score a run in the top of the eighth inning. Virginia responded in the next at-bat, however, as junior shortstop Nic Kent tapped a single to shallow right field to bring in the team’s fourth run of the afternoon. 

Adding to an already exciting series, the Cavaliers celebrated their second consecutive walk-off after senior right-fielder Christian Hlinka knocked a double to right-center field to bring in the winning run and complete the sweep. 

“The competitive spirit and resolve of our guys today was really impressive,” O’Connor said. “Obviously the Friday night win was special because of the no-hitter but these last two ball games were hard-fought games where we found a way to win. I’m really excited for Christian Hlinka, he stepped in there and did a really nice job. His first at bat he hit right on the screws and certainly did a nice job with two strikes and firing that ball into the gap and winning it.”

Virginia concludes its regular season schedule with a series against Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Mass. The three-game series began Thursday at 5:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on the ACC Network. 


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