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O’Connor captures 800th career win as No. 17 Virginia comfortably defeats Rhode Island in series sweep

Head Coach Brian O’Connor’s career milestone was the highlight of yet another exciting weekend of baseball for the Cavaliers

<p>Flame-throwing sophomore pitcher Jay Woolfolk has settled comfortably into a closing role for the Cavaliers, shutting the door to the tune of a 1.59 ERA on the season.</p>

Flame-throwing sophomore pitcher Jay Woolfolk has settled comfortably into a closing role for the Cavaliers, shutting the door to the tune of a 1.59 ERA on the season.

This weekend, Virginia baseball hosted Rhode Island in Charlottesville at Disharoon Park in a three-game series. The Cavaliers (11-0, 0-0 ACC) swept the Rams (3-6, 0-0 Atlantic 10), winning a doubleheader Saturday and completing the sweep with a Sunday afternoon victory.

Game 1 – Virginia 12, Rhode Island 6

Four Cavaliers had multiple hits in the opening game, led by junior catcher Kyle Teel, who tallied two RBI. Junior outfielder Ethan O’Donnell earned his second hit on a home run crushed far beyond the right field wall. Junior infielder Jake Gelof and freshman infielder Henry Godbout both continued their strong seasons as well. 

Sophomore utility man Ethan Anderson added another home run, and sophomore outfielder Colin Tuft contributed three RBIs. 

Virginia key contributors Teel and Godbout continued their phenomenal seasons at the plate. Teel’s .575 mark leads the ACC and is fourth in the entire nation – as well as first among all catchers. Godbout’s .452 batting average is currently sixth in the conference.

Several other Cavaliers are not far behind them. Superstar junior infielder Jake Gelof is slashing a strong .405. Fellow infielders — sophomores Ethan Anderson and Griff O’Ferrall — are sporting impressive averages of .404 and .333 respectively. Add in O’Donnell’s .366 clip with sophomore infielder Casey Saucke’s .326, and that makes an incredible seven Virginia starters slugging over .300. 

The Cavaliers have only hit 15 home runs so far, but they feature a sustainable offense that consistently gets on base -– the key to putting runs on the scoreboard. 

Sophomore reliever Chase Hungate earned his first win of the season, retiring four batters while allowing zero runs. Freshman reliever Bradley Hodges got the save by holding nine batters to two runs. 

Game 2 – Virginia 13, Rhode Island 0

Graduate student pitcher Brian Edgington led the Cavalier shutout with six innings of dominant play — only surrendering three hits and two walks while striking out 10 Rhode Island batters. Edgington is 3-0 on the season. 

Freshman relief pitchers Cullen McKay and Kevin Jaxel each added two strikeouts in one inning apiece. 

Again, the Cavaliers demonstrated a consistent ability to score in a variety of ways. Virginia scored 13 runs without a home run — and just three doubles. 

Teel and Anderson both clubbed four hits each, but only Saucke and O’Ferrall joined them as Cavaliers with multiple hits in the second game. 

In the second game, Virginia took advantage of several Rhode Island errors. The Rams gave up a wild pitch, a dropped fly ball and a third error in center field — all resulting in Cavalier runs. 

At the same time, O’Connor’s pitching rotation is beginning to take shape. The Cavaliers have used a four-man starting rotation so far – led by the junior Connelly Early and freshman Jack O’Connor, along with Edgington and graduate student Nick Parker. 

Early boasts an elite 1.69 ERA — O’Connor is close behind with a 1.72 ERA, and Edgington’s 1.76 ERA is also exceptional. Parker owns a 4.60 ERA but is 2-0 on the season. 

Out of the bullpen, junior reliever Jake Berry still boasts a perfect 0.00 ERA. Do not forget about sophomore reliever Jay Woolfolk either. His stifling fastball tops out at approximately 99 miles per hour – which he has relied on to the tune of a 1.59 ERA. The Cavaliers gave up a season-high six runs in two games this series but completed a shutout in the second game. 

Game 3 – Virginia 16, Rhode Island 6

Graduate student reliever Angelo Tonas was credited with the win after stopping a Rhode Island scoring streak. The Rams fought for three runs off of O’Connor before Tonas entered the game to allow only two runs. Senior reliever Jacob Hodorovich, Woolfolk and Berry did not allow another run. 

It was yet another outstanding outing offensively for the Cavaliers, who have now scored 10 or more runs in six of their 11 games. At the end of the third inning, Virginia already led 7-1, but the game was blown open for good when the Cavaliers scored five more in the bottom of the fourth inning to ensure the sweep. 

Virginia scored multiple runs in four separate innings, led by outstanding outings from Teel and Gelof. Teel hit 4-5 and Gelof went 3-4 in another comfortable Virginia victory.

The Rams committed five errors in the third game, while the Cavaliers surrendered none. Virginia has clearly outplayed their opponents in the field, and the Cavaliers have also easily overcome any adversity they have faced.

O’Connor gave up a home run against the first batter he faced, but quickly responded with consecutive strikeouts. 

Virginia then went to work at the plate, with Gelof racing down the first base line for an infield single and then Teel then slashing a single well into left field. Hits by Saucke and Anderson followed to create a 3-1 Cavalier lead.

Virginia never trailed after the end of the first inning.

Gelof did add another home run, but still, the Cavaliers won with “small ball.” Virginia hit .432 in the final game of the series. 

The Cavaliers are currently fifth nationally with 35 doubles in 11 games.

11 games into the 2023 season, Virginia has several players worthy of All-ACC consideration. The Cavaliers have the valuable advantage of multiple stars at the plate and on the mound. 

Virginia will need to sustain their high level of play as they fight with fellow undefeated Wake Forest and NC State for first place in the conference. The Cavaliers are currently in sole possession of first place in the Coastal Division.

The Cavaliers have raced off to incredible heights in a small sample size. Virginia as a team is currently third nationally in team batting average with .365 and sixth in ERA with 2.32. They lead the ACC in team batting average but rank third in team ERA close behind Wake Forest and NC State.

This upcoming weekend, the Cavaliers will travel to Chapel Hill, N.C. for their first conference series against No. 14 North Carolina. In their three losses, the Tar Heels were only outscored by a combined four runs. Virginia will aim to continue their 11-game win streak into ACC play against a formidable rival. All games will be broadcast on ACC Network. 

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