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Virginia baseball sweeps the Jacksonville College Baseball Classic

The Cavaliers are 7-0 for the eighth time under Coach Brian O’Connor

<p>Virginia’s offense excelled on all counts, with multiple players recording a multi-hit game.</p>

Virginia’s offense excelled on all counts, with multiple players recording a multi-hit game.

No. 13 Virginia baseball traveled to Jacksonville, Fla. this weekend to compete in the inaugural Jacksonville College Baseball Classic. After a 3-0 sweep against Hofstra last weekend and a midweek victory against Old Dominion, the Cavaliers (7-0, 0-0 ACC) managed to pull out two comeback wins against Wichita State and Iowa before sealing the weekend sweep against No. 23 Auburn in The Sunshine State. 

Game One — Virginia 5, Wichita State 4 

After a 90-minute rain delay, sophomore left-handed pitcher Evan Blanco made his second career start for Virginia Friday. In the top of the first inning, Blanco escaped a bases-loaded situation with a double play. A run from the Shockers (3-3, 0-0 AAC) in the top of the second was the only score until an RBI single from sophomore infielder Luke Hanson in the fourth inning leveled the game. Wichita State fired back with a home-run to start off the fifth, prompting the Cavaliers to make a pitching change, with junior right-handed pitcher Chase Hungate relieving Blanco. Another run from the Shockers left Virginia searching for something different in the form of freshman right-handed pitcher Bryson Moore. 

Facing a 1-3 deficit in the top of the sixth, the Cavaliers were looking to score and change the momentum of the game. An error and a balk put sophomore infielder Henry Godbout in position to score. Then, an RBI from graduate student Bobby Whalen sealed the deal and allowed Godbout to add an unearned run, bringing the score to 2-3.

A ground out and two strikeouts from Moore put the Cavaliers back on offense rather quickly in the seventh, but Virginia was unable to capitalize on the opportunity. Another pitching change put junior left-handed pitcher Blake Barker on the mound. Barker provided a massive strikeout for the Cavaliers in the eighth, stranding two runners on base and adding some momentum to the dugout. 

Unfortunately for Barker, a second rain delay stifled the action for almost two hours in the middle of the eighth. However, when the game finally resumed, Virginia did not hesitate to fight back and level the game. A single from Godbout started off what would result in a second unearned run of the day for Godbout. A bases-loaded opportunity was squandered by a ground-out for junior catcher Ethan Anderson, but the Cavaliers left the inning with a fire lit under them. 

A rather lackluster ninth inning forced the game into extra innings. A home run from Wichita State made scoring a do-or-die opportunity for Virginia. The Cavaliers recognized the opportunity, and with the bases loaded, freshman Henry Ford delivered a double to right-center and sealed a 5-4 victory from behind for the Cavaliers. 

Game Two — Virginia 12, Iowa 9

For the second time at the Classic, Virginia had to come from behind to defeat the then No. 18 Hawkeyes (4-4, 0-0 Big 10). Sophomore right-handed pitcher Jack O’Connor struggled against the Iowa offense Saturday, allowing a six-run inning for the Hawkeyes and giving the Cavaliers a lot of work to do going forward. Virginia remained scoreless until the third inning when a single from junior outfielder Casey Saucke produced two runs to put the score at 2-6. However, an Iowa double further increased the deficit to 2-7. 

A highly productive fourth inning put the Cavaliers within reach of the Hawkeyes and saw an Anderson home run to right field, leading to a five-run inning. An RBI single from Iowa put the Hawkeyes on top once more, ending the inning 7-8. 

The fifth and sixth innings were relatively quiet, but the seventh was punctuated by a Saucke home-run to tie the game 8-8. Saucke continued to produce for Virginia with an RBI single in the eighth that helped junior outfielder Anthony Stephan score, but a throwing error by the Cavaliers in the bottom of the inning led to the score being tied once more at 9-9.

An electric ninth inning pushed Virginia to victory, propelled by a highly productive offense. Godbout put himself on second base with his fourth hit of the day and moved into scoring position with a single from Whalen. A walk on a bases-loaded scenario allowed Virginia to take the lead 10-9, but the scoring was far from over. A two-RBI single from Ford gave the Cavaliers some extra insurance as they brought the lead to 12-9. Even after a leadoff walk, Barker kept his cool through the next three outs to end the game and seal the deal for Virginia.

Game Three — Virginia 6, Auburn 4

In their last game of the weekend, the Cavaliers took on the Tigers (6-1, 0-0 SEC). Graduate left-handed pitcher Owen Coady had his first start in a Virginia uniform Sunday, striking out two batters in his first inning on the mound. The second inning featured a major double-play from Godbout, helping Virginia escape a bases-loaded scare.

The first runs of the game occurred in the third inning, with one arriving for both Virginia and Auburn. A fifth RBI for the weekend from Ford put Virginia on the board first, followed by an RBI from the Tigers to tie the game at 1-1.

Auburn took their only lead of the game in the bottom of the fourth inning with an RBI single, putting the Tigers ahead 1-2, but an RBI from Anderson in the fifth inning leveled the game once more, allowing junior infielder Griff O’Ferrall to run home. 

The Cavaliers scored again in the sixth with an RBI double from Hanson. With no response from the Auburn offense, Virginia increased their lead in the seventh off a Saucke RBI double, sending Anderson home. A single Auburn run in the bottom of the seventh inning kept the Cavaliers ahead 4-3 heading into the eighth. 

Whalen contributed to the scoring once more for the weekend, hammering in a ground double that got Godbout to home plate. A Stephan RBI single later in the eighth then notched another run for Virginia and extended the lead 6-3. A solo homer from the Tigers ended the inning at 6-4. A scoreless ninth inning sealed the win and the weekend for the Cavaliers. 

Virginia’s offense excelled on all counts, with multiple players recording a multi-hit game — O’Ferrall, Stephan and sophomore outfielder Harrison Didawick. On the pitching front, sophomore right-handed pitcher Kevin Jaxel recorded the win — exiting the seventh inning with a 4-3 lead at hand. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Aidan Teel recorded the save after pitching a scoreless ninth inning to secure the victory. 

“We played some really good tough baseball,” Coach Brian O’Connor said. “Learned a little bit more about our ball club. This weekend we showed a lot of fight and a lot of poise … It was great college baseball.”

Virginia is back in action at Disharoon Park Wednesday — the first of a five-game homestand for the Cavaliers — facing Virginia Military Institute with the first pitch scheduled for 3 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ACCNX.


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