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Virginia baseball will take a 1,186-mile trip to the College World Series after defeating Dallas Baptist in two of three games

The Cavaliers’ tournament run stays alive thanks to momentous efforts in must-win situations

<p>Teel's grand slam in the seventh inning propelled the Cavaliers ahead on the board in the third game of the NCAA Tournament Super Regionals.&nbsp;</p>

Teel's grand slam in the seventh inning propelled the Cavaliers ahead on the board in the third game of the NCAA Tournament Super Regionals. 

For the fifth time in program history, Virginia is advancing to the College World Series. To get to the Super Regionals, the Cavaliers (35-25, 18-18 ACC) had to win four straight elimination games during the Columbia Regionals — a hefty task they handled with poise. After this amazing feat, Virginia was pitted against Dallas Baptist in this best-of-three Super Regionals series. In the first game Saturday, the Cavaliers fell by one run to the Patriots (41-18, 18-6 MVC). Virginia turned it around quickly, however, and won the next two matchups — advancing to the big stage in Omaha, Neb. for the first time since 2015.

Game 1 — Dallas Baptist 6, Virginia 5

The Patriots were the first to etch their names on the board after posting a two-run homer into the left stands in the opening inning. By the time the fourth inning concluded, the score still remained 2-0 in favor of Dallas Baptist.

In the fifth, the Cavaliers went on an explosive five-run rally and captured the lead. First, back-to-back solo home runs from senior first baseman and outfielder Alex Tappen and freshman infielder and outfielder Jake Gelof hit the stands to tie the game. Next, two walks and an extra-base hit from junior infielder Zack Gelof loaded the bases for Virginia, and senior infielder Devin Ortiz cleared them with a double.

The Patriots plated one run in their part of the inning, making it 5-3 heading into the sixth. They added two more to tie the game in that inning and one more to reclaim the lead in the seventh.

On the bump for four of these six Dallas Baptist runs was senior left-hander Andrew Abbott — Virginia’s starting pitcher. He struck out eight batters in five innings of work and was replaced by junior right-hander Zach Messinger, who gave up the last two Patriot runs. Junior right-hander Mike Vasil also pitched for one inning to close it out and minimize damage.

“Unfortunately, we had opportunities we just couldn’t cash in,” Coach Brian O’Connor said. “It’s going to take everything for us to win tomorrow and have a chance to play Monday.”

Two big opportunities for the Cavaliers came in the eighth and ninth innings, but not capitalizing on them meant that the team would finish down by one. Losing the game forced Virginia into elimination mode, as it would need to win two in a row to advance to the College World Series.

Game 2 — Virginia 4, Dallas Baptist 0

Behind the spectacular pitching arm of senior right-hander Griff McGarry, the Cavaliers were able to shut out Dallas Baptist. McGarry pitched through the first eight innings of the game, not allowing a hit until the seventh, and struck out 10 batters to secure his first win as a pitcher since 2020.

The Patriots also pitched the first seven innings without a score, but Virginia broke through in the eighth. Zack Gelof hit a solo home run over the left wall to take a 1-0 lead, and Tappen added some insurance with a three-run homer — putting the Cavaliers up by four.

McGarry was eventually pulled off the mound with a bloody cut on his right hand and replaced by junior left-hander Brandon Neeck, who staved off four Patriots at-bat before senior right-hander Kyle Whitten came in and finished the job.

Ultimately, these efforts on the mound and the heat from Cavalier batters worked to keep Virginia’s postseason run alive.

Game 3 — Virginia 5, Dallas Baptist 2

After winning multiple elimination games in the NCAA Tournament thus far, the never-say-die Cavaliers needed to amass one more big feat to punch their ticket to the College World Series — something the team has been chasing since its National Championship in 2015.

Dallas Baptist opened up scoring in this game with a two-run blast in the top of the third inning, with Virginia’s sophomore left-hander Nate Savino on the hill. Savino stayed in as pitcher after this, but eventually bowed out in favor of sophomore right-hander Matt Wyatt partway through the fourth inning.

A bomb out of the field in the bottom of the fourth from junior infielder Nic Kent brought some hope for the Cavaliers, as this was their first run of the day. After this, the teams engaged in a multi-inning deadlock before Virginia sent the ball flying in the seventh.

Jake Gelof reached first off a single to left field, then advanced to second after graduate catcher Logan Michaels sacrificed to the pitcher. Zack Gelof then filled his younger brother’s previous position at first base thanks to a walk. At that point, with runners on first and second, Dallas Baptist switched pitchers in an attempt to escape the inning, but the Cavaliers didn’t let it happen.

Sophomore infielder Max Cotier singled and pushed the Gelof brothers forward once again — loading the bases for freshman catcher and infielder Kyle Teel. Teel hit a grand slam home run to the center, tacking on four runs for his team. Virginia would hold onto this momentum for the rest of the game, with Wyatt still on the bump by the end.

“To be able to be that guy at the bottom of the dogpile and get the last out was one of the best moments of my life,” Wyatt said.

This victory brought Virginia’s 2021 postgame tally of wins when facing elimination to six.

The Cavaliers will have some time to rest before resuming their quest for the National Championship. The team will play No. 3 Tennessee within a four-team bracket starting Sunday at 1 p.m. CST on ESPN2.

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