Following a dominant performance against Old Dominion, No. 7 Virginia took on rival Virginia Tech on the road this weekend at Atlantic Union Bank Park in Blacksburg as part of the Smithfield Commonwealth Clash. Although the Cavaliers (24-4, 8-4 ACC) put together 26 runs over the course of three games, the Hokies (17-10, 4-8 ACC) outpaced them on their way to scoring 29 runs. Ultimately Virginia won Friday night’s contest but couldn’t replicate that success and lost back-to-back games for the first time this season.
Game 1 – Virginia 9, Virginia Tech 5
The Cavaliers started the weekend series with a strong offensive first inning. Following a leadoff walk by sophomore infielder Griff O’Ferrall, junior outfielder Ethan O’Donnell fouled off eight pitches before taking a 12-pitch walk to move O'Ferrall into scoring position ahead of junior infielder Jake Gelof. Gelof did not disappoint and worked an outside pitch into the right field gap to plate one runner and give Virginia an early 1-0 lead.
Junior catcher Kyle Teel and sophomore utility player Ethan Anderson would follow with a sacrifice fly and RBI single respectively to extend the Cavaliers’ lead to 3-0. Their 36 runs scored in the first innings is the most of any frame.
The following inning, O’Donnell blasted a hanging curveball over the left field wall for his seventh home run of the season. After just two innings, Virginia was ahead 6-0. O’Donnell not only had an impressive offensive showing, but in the third inning he made a diving catch to rob junior outfielder Carson Jones of extra bases.
Graduate student pitcher Brian Edgington picked up the win and continued his outstanding season on the mound, going six innings and striking out eight batters. He did not give up an earned run, which lowered his ERA to 1.64, good for fifth in the ACC.
Although Virginia Tech would close the gap with an eighth-inning home run by freshman catcher Brody Donay, the Cavaliers won the game 9-5 and extended their win streak to seven games, one of the longest in the ACC.
Game 2 – Virginia 10, Virginia Tech 12
Virginia struck first again Saturday evening when Teel leveled a two-strike pitch into right field to score O’Donnell who was on second after a double. The Hokies would respond by plating six runs across the next two innings against junior pitcher Connelly Early.
However, the Cavaliers responded with three runs of their own in the third to close the gap. Teel continued his run production with a two-run opposite-field home run. Unfortunately, the Virginia pitching could not stop the Virginia Tech offense which scored another five runs over the next two innings to extend their lead to 11-4, the Cavaliers' largest deficit of the season.
However, Virginia is not a team to give up and slowly they began mounting a comeback. Gelof hit a 459-foot home run in the fifth to start chipping away at the lead. This was his 34th career home run, moving him into sole possession of fourth in all-time Cavalier home runs.
Virginia nearly tied the game in the ninth inning, scoring four runs and bringing the tying run to the plate, but senior pitcher Jonah Hurney was able to stop the offensive surge and pick up the save for the Hokies. Early took the loss for Virginia, yielding five hits and six earned runs in two innings of work.
Game 3 – Virginia 7, Virginia Tech 12
The Cavaliers hoped to avoid their first series loss of the year Sunday afternoon but fell short following a disappointing pitching performance. Once again, Teel picked up a first-inning RBI on a single to center field. Anderson followed with a two-RBI double to right field to give Virginia the early 3-0 lead.
Freshman pitcher Jack O’Connor could not hold the lead however and gave up four runs in the bottom half of the inning. In what would prove to be a seesaw contest between the two teams, the Cavaliers snatched the lead again in the third when sophomore infielder Casey Saucke scored Anderson on a two-out single to left. Following another Virginia Tech response in the bottom of the third, Virginia took its third lead of the game in the fourth following another two-out RBI, this time from Teel.
Unfortunately, this was the final lead of the game for the Cavaliers, as the Hokies would hit three home runs and win the game 12-7.
“We just didn’t do what we do,” Coach Brian O’Connor said. “Not saying we would’ve won the game, they did a tremendous job and we didn’t have enough from a pitching standpoint to hold them down.”
Virginia dropped two spots in the most recent rankings after dropping its first series of the season. While Virginia deservedly remains a top 10 team, the series finales against both NC State and Virginia Tech have shown cracks in the Cavalier bullpen that may hold the team back from reaching its full potential. The series loss also knotted up the Smithfield Commonwealth Clash between Virginia and Virginia Tech at seven points apiece.
The Cavaliers will travel to Lynchburg, Va. Tuesday at 6 p.m. to face Liberty for a non-conference game.