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Outstanding defense and overpowering offense carry No. 19 Virginia baseball to 7-0

The Cavaliers outscored Columbia 24-5 over the weekend

<p>Plate discipline allowed the Cavaliers to pad their substantial run differential against a top team in the Ivy League.&nbsp;</p>

Plate discipline allowed the Cavaliers to pad their substantial run differential against a top team in the Ivy League. 

No. 19 Virginia continued its strong start to the 2023 season this weekend in a series against Columbia at Disharoon Park. The Cavaliers (7-0, 0-0 ACC) swept the series, keeping a seven-game win streak alive. 

Game 1 – Virginia 4, Columbia 1

Virginia welcomed Columbia to Charlottesville for a Friday doubleheader. The Lions (0-3, 0-0 Ivy League), in their season opener, fell to the Cavaliers 4-1 in the first game. 

In the bottom of the second inning, junior catcher Kyle Teel hit his second home run of the season to give the Cavaliers a 1-0 lead. Columbia drove in a run from three hits on graduate student pitcher Nick Parker, but the Cavalier defense did not allow another run. 

In the bottom of the third, freshman outfielder Harrison Didawick reached first base on an error, advanced to second on an errant pickoff and then to third on a sacrifice fly. He scored on a sacrifice fly by sophomore shortstop Griff O’Ferrall.  

Sophomore utility player Ethan Anderson scored off a Lions error in the bottom of the seventh inning to increase the Cavaliers' lead to 3-1. Freshman infielder Henry Godbout added another off of a Justin Rubin sacrifice fly. 

Junior pitcher Jake Berry closed out the game with six strikeouts across three hitless and scoreless innings in a 4-1 Cavaliers win.  

Virginia's pitching flashed dominance for most of the game, highlighted by Berry’s 0.00 ERA. Berry earned the save, and Parker picked up a win for allowing just one run over six innings. Parker had six strikeouts, yielded six hits and no walks.

Game 2 – Virginia 11, Columbia 3

In the second game of a Friday doubleheader, graduate student pitcher Brian Edgington gave up a solo home run in the first inning along with two other hits — but rebounded to close the inning with three strikeouts. He gave up zero runs and only one hit for the next four innings en route to his second win of the season. Edgington sports a strong 2.89 ERA.

Each of the top five spots in the Cavalier lineup contributed to the victory with an RBI apiece.

However, Godbout stole the show for Virginia with a 3-4, 4 RBI performance. His .550 batting average leads Cavalier starters this season.

Virginia demonstrated elite plate discipline, a trademark of Coach Brian O’Connor’s squads. The Cavaliers earned seven walks, 11 hits and only struck out six times in total. In the sixth inning, Godbout, O’Ferrall and junior outfielder Ethan O’Donnell torched the Lions with three consecutive doubles in part of a four run frame.

After Edgington departed the game, the bullpen went to work, tossing a combined four scoreless innings. Sophomore reliever Jay Woolfolk showed off his blazing fastball by retiring the side in the ninth to end the game with two strikeouts. 

Game 3 – Virginia 9, Columbia 1

Freshman pitcher Jack O’Connor, Berry’s high school teammate at Bishop O’Connell, dominated through six shutout innings Sunday afternoon to close out the weekend series. His ERA is also still a perfect 0.00 and he has given up just one hit in eleven innings. 

With neither team scoring a run in the first seven innings, the Cavalier offense exploded for an incredible nine runs in the eighth inning. Three of these runs came from an Anderson home run over the right field wall — his first of the season. Junior infielder Jake Gelof also had a strong day at the plate, going 2-4 with a walk. Gelof’s batting average is up to .429 on the season.

Despite O’Connor’s efficient scoreless outing, the win went to Woolfolk for retiring the final five Columbia hitters. Woolfolk showed poise, coming into the eighth inning with one out and the bases loaded. He proceeded to retire the side, earning his first win of the season with two strikeouts and no walks.

Replacing the production of three pitchers taken in the 2022 MLB Draft was a top priority for Coach O’Connor — and his pitching staff has clearly risen up to the task. Parker, Edgington and O’Connor are new starters with an ERA under 3.5.

Virginia took advantage of Columbia’s four errors, including a three error game in the series opener. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers surrendered only one error in the series. Consistent fielding and dominant pitching were primary takeaways this weekend, but the potent Cavalier offense can take over a game at any given moment. 

This is a Virginia team that has shown it is ready to avenge last year’s disappointing early exit. Wake Forest and NC State along with Georgia Tech are the only other ACC teams without a loss after this weekend. Out of those teams, only No. 6 Wake Forest is currently ranked higher than No. 19 Virginia. 

Up next, the Cavaliers have a single game against Virginia Military Institute at 3 p.m. Tuesday at Disharoon Park followed by a four game home series against Rhode Island over the weekend. The games will be broadcast on ACC Network.