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Baseball drops two of three against Miami in first series of ACC play

The Cavalier bullpen had its worst outing in years, leading to two losses

<p>While it was discouraging for the Cavaliers to lose the series, they displayed a lot of development in their ability to handle adversity.</p>

While it was discouraging for the Cavaliers to lose the series, they displayed a lot of development in their ability to handle adversity.

Coming off of a 6-3 win Tuesday against Penn State and a ridiculous Wednesday performance in which the team hit eight home runs against George Washington, the Virginia baseball team was riding high. But their momentum would soon face a stiff challenge at Alex Rodriguez Park, where they played Miami in Virginia’s first ACC series of the year.

While the Cavaliers (14-3, 1-2 ACC) were ranked 13th at the time and the Hurricanes (9-6, 2-1 ACC) were unranked, an away series in the ACC is always challenging. It proved to be such for Virginia, as they dropped both of the first two games. However, they came away with a win at the end of the series, giving them momentum for the week ahead. 

Game 1 — Virginia 5, Miami 6

The first game of the series started very well for the Cavaliers. Sophomore pitcher Cullen McKay had his career high of eight strikeouts and took a no-hitter bid into the fifth inning, which gave Virginia a great chance to take the lead. The Cavaliers capitalized on McKay’s great outing by scoring two runs in the second inning via a home run from sophomore outfielder Harrison Didawick — something that will be a common trend. They then scored again in the third inning when junior outfielder Anthony Stephan scored on a wild throw from the Miami defense. Stephan would be back at it again in the sixth when he hit an infield single that scored freshman infielder Eric Becker. 

Unfortunately, the sixth inning is where momentum ran out for Virginia. McKay would struggle in the sixth inning, and a fielding error from Becker allowed three runners to get on base. Those runners would all eventually score on a Hurricane groundout and later a double by senior catcher Jack Scanlon. The Cavaliers escaped the inning up one run, but their troubles would not end there.

Virginia scored a run in the top of the seventh inning via a double from Becker, but going up 5-3 would not be enough. Graduate pitcher Angelo Tonas struggled on the mound, and was removed quickly. Then, junior pitcher Blake Barker gave up a three-run home run to Miami freshman infielder Daniel Cuvet which put the Hurricanes up 6-5. The Cavaliers would manage to stop the bloodshed there, but it was too late. The Miami bullpen shut Virginia down in the eighth and ninth innings, giving the Hurricanes the close win in game one.

“I thought we came out and attacked their Friday night starter and had a lot of great at bats,” Coach Brian O’Connor said. “We just couldn’t finish them off.”

Game 2 — Virginia 12, Miami 16

With both teams using their current ace pitchers in game two, the idea was that this game would be a low-scoring pitcher’s duel. It started out as such, with the Cavaliers only scoring in the first inning due to a fielding error that eventually allowed graduate outfielder Bobby Whalen to score on a sacrifice fly. However, this low-scoring contest soon turned into a home run derby by the third inning. 

Freshman infielder Henry Ford hit a backside single to score Stephan and put Virginia up 2-0. Then, for the fourth consecutive game, Didawick hit a home run to score both him and Ford. It felt as if the Cavaliers were going to run away with the game, but the Hurricanes did not die out. Miami put up three of their own runs in the bottom of the third inning on a series of singles and doubles that was uncharacteristic of any team that has faced Virginia sophomore pitcher Evan Blanco so far. However, Blanco eventually regained composure and cut the Hurricanes off at three runs.

With their defense in control, the Cavaliers went on to destroy Miami’s ace, junior Rafe Schlesinger. They put up four runs in the fourth inning via a single from junior outfielder Casey Saucke and another home run from Didawick. Even after Schlesinger was out, Virginia still attacked. They scored another four runs in the fifth inning through some small ball tactics and a home run from Ford, his sixth of the year. Now up 12-3 at the midway point of the game, it felt as if the Cavaliers were untouchable in this game. Even the biggest deficits can be overcome though, and Miami would prove this to be true.

In the seventh inning, the score was still 12-3, however the Virginia bullpen was on the field. Miami got six runs in the seventh and took the lead in the eighth by tacking on another seven runs. From 12-3 Virginia to 16-12 Miami, the score flipped in the blink of an eye, and yet again, all momentum was lost for the Cavaliers. They failed to rally back and reclaim the lead, and lost the game and series by dropping game two.

Game 3 — Virginia 14, Miami 11

Clearly hungry for a win, the Cavaliers jumped out to an early 4-0 lead in game three with a single from sophomore infielder Luke Hanson, an RBI hit-by-pitch from Whalen and a single from Stephan that scored two. However, the Hurricanes first started to come back in the fourth inning when they notched two runs through a double from freshman outfielder Jake Kulikowski. After Virginia earned those runs back by scoring some unearned runs off a few Miami errors, the Hurricanes battled again by scoring four runs in the bottom of the fifth. Now the score was all tied up going into the sixth inning, and it became clear that Virginia had to dig deep to pull out the win. 

The Cavaliers got four runs in the sixth inning due to a double from Ford and a home run from Saucke. Next, Miami responded with two runs in the sixth inning and three in the seventh to take the lead for the first time all game. This time, however, Virginia would not roll over like the two previous games. 

A Saucke home run in the eighth inning tied the game up again and set the stage for a huge ninth inning. In the final frame, the middle of the Cavalier order would get the job done. Ford singled to score junior infielder Griff O’Ferrall, and Didawick hit a double to score two more runs. Finally, the Virginia bullpen locked in for one last inning, and sophomore pitcher Jack O’Connor slammed the door on the Hurricanes by getting three quick outs to secure the win. 

While it was discouraging for the Cavaliers to lose the series, they displayed a lot of development in their ability to handle adversity and attack pitchers from the start. The hitting overall in the series was sensational, as numerous players showed impressive talent with their bats. 

“For our players to respond [in game three] after those first two difficult losses, it shows the character that they have,” Coach O’Connor said. 

Next, Virginia will host Wake Forest for what is sure to be a marquee series this weekend — beginning March 15. All games will be broadcasted on ACCNX. 

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