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Virginia baseball drops two of three in home series with Georgia Tech

Subpar pitching led to the Cavaliers’ first home series loss of 2024

The Cavaliers celebrate a walk-off hit from graduate student outfielder Bobby Whalen.
The Cavaliers celebrate a walk-off hit from graduate student outfielder Bobby Whalen.

After winning two out of three games against Louisville and splitting midweek contests against Old Dominion and George Mason, the Virginia baseball team was home for a weekend series against Georgia Tech. With just a few weeks left in the regular season, both teams were jockeying for valuable seeding in the ACC. Ultimately, the Yellow Jackets (24-14, 9-9 ACC) rallied double-digit runs multiple times as the Cavaliers (30-11, 12-9 ACC) managed just one win in a frustrating series loss.

Game 1 — Virginia 2, Georgia Tech 13

With sophomore pitcher Evan Blanco on the mound, the Cavaliers were determined to start off the series right. However, the first two innings saw the Cavalier offense come up short in key moments. In the first inning, Virginia had men on first and third base after a double by junior utility player Ethan Anderson and a single by freshman infielder Henry Ford, but sophomore outfielder Harrison Didawick struck out to end the inning. The same thing happened in the second inning when the Cavaliers had three hits, but junior infielder Griff O’Ferrall grounded out to end the inning. 

Then, the defense fell apart in the third. Blanco allowed countless hits, resulting in a 6-0 lead for the Yellow Jackets. However, Blanco eventually locked in and threw two more shutout innings to keep the deficit at six. 

Georgia Tech added on one more run in the sixth inning via a throwing error by O’Ferrall, but for the most part, sophomore pitcher Ryan Osinski gave a solid performance in the inning he threw. The Cavaliers would then cut the deficit to five runs after scoring two in the bottom of the seventh. A series of hits led to a run after Didawick got an infield single, and the second score came when graduate catcher Jacob Ference reached on an error that scored Anderson.

Unfortunately, this momentum shift died quickly. Sophomore pitcher Cullen McKay was crushed in the eighth as the Yellow Jackets regained their hitting. A couple of singles and doubles started the inning off strong with a few Georgia Tech runs before a grand slam put the nail in the coffin for Virginia. After failing to score any runs in the bottom of the inning, Georgia Tech won by mercy rule. 

“This was certainly a frustrating game,” Coach Brian O’Connor said. “You don’t see that very often in college baseball where you out-hit the other team and get ten-run ruled.”

Game 2 — Virginia 8, Georgia Tech 7

After a disappointing opening game, the Cavaliers were back to prove themselves Saturday. Graduate student Owen Coady was Virginia’s starting pitcher and put up a very solid performance. In the 4.1 innings he pitched, Coady allowed just two hits and one earned run, although the score was 2-1 when he exited due to an unearned run scoring via a sacrifice fly. The lone Cavalier run in the first three frames came from a Ference home run. Georgia Tech tacked on another in the third, but the fourth and fifth innings would go by with little action, as both teams’ pitching staffs were holding their own. 

“I thought Owen Coady, you know, even though he had five walks managed the innings really well for us,” O’Connor said. 

The sixth inning is where the game got chaotic. The Virginia offense came alive, getting three hits and capitalizing on free passes. A hit by pitch and a single put two runners on base before a home run from Ford cleared them. Two more runs were scored for the Cavaliers on a Yellow Jacket error, and another was driven in on a sacrifice fly from O’Ferrall. All of a sudden, the Cavaliers were up 7-2. However, this commanding lead would not last long. 

The Virginia bullpen collapsed in the seventh inning, and poor defense exacerbated the decline. After a throwing error led to the leadoff hitter getting on base, junior pitcher Jay Woolfolk walked the next batter before allowing a double. The Cavaliers then made two pitching changes by putting in graduate student Angelo Tonas before pulling him in favor of junior Chase Hungate after Tonas allowed a two-RBI single on his first batter. Hungate would settle in well, only allowing one unearned run and closing out the inning with a 7-6 lead. 

The eighth inning went by without any scoring, but Georgia Tech would score one run in the top of the ninth inning to tie the game at seven. Virginia failed to score in the bottom half, sending the game to extra innings. Both sides went out quickly in the tenth inning and the Cavaliers held the Yellow Jackets scoreless in the eleventh inning, which gave themselves a chance to clinch the win. After a double from sophomore infielder Luke Hanson, graduate student outfielder Bobby Whalen hit a single to right field to walk it off for Virginia — lifting the Cavaliers to a much-needed victory after a brutal beatdown in the first game.

“They beat up on us really good last night and it was good to see our guys respond and find a way to win,” O’Connor said. 

Game 3 — Virginia 12, Georgia Tech 17

Game three was a classic Sunday college baseball game — a lot of hits, a lot of runs and no consistent pitching. Right away, the offense started as the Cavaliers got three runs in the first inning through a few initial walks and later singles thanks to junior outfielder Casey Saucke and Didawick. Georgia Tech responded with two runs of their own before giving up two when Whalen and Saucke recorded a sacrifice fly and groundout, respectively. This constant scoring pattern continued throughout the game.

Once the third inning started though, the advantage shifted from Virginia to the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech scored three runs in the third, while the Cavaliers only scored one, and the same pattern happened in the fourth inning. In the fifth, the Yellow Jackets scored two to Virginia’s one, and in the sixth they scored five to the Cavaliers’ one. Despite consistently scoring, Virginia found themselves down 15-9 through six innings. 

With little time left, the Cavaliers had to continue scoring while finding a way to stop Georgia Tech’s offense. Sophomore pitcher Kevin Jaxel shut out the Yellow Jackets for the first time since the first inning. Then, Virginia added two runs through three walks, a single and a sacrifice fly from O’Ferrall. 

It seemed as if the Cavaliers had a chance to come back, however their momentum ran out. Both teams went scoreless in the eighth, and Virginia could not score enough in the ninth to overcome the five-run deficit created after Georgia Tech added two more in the final frame.

This series loss was very disappointing for the Cavaliers, representing the first time Virginia has lost a home series in 2024, and glaring weaknesses were exposed. Their pitching is shallow and oftentimes inconsistent, and the offense, while good, lacks resilience and fails to finish on comebacks. This is all exacerbated by the defense making errors at critical junctures. With only so much time before the postseason, the Cavaliers will have to shape up if they want to make a run at the College World Series. 

“[The] bottom line is, you know, they beat the hell out of us, you know, we couldn’t get them out, and that’s a credit to them,” O’Connor said. “They had 25 hits, I can’t even remember the last time a team did that to us.”

Virginia will now look towards a midweek Tuesday interlude at home against Liberty and a road trip to face Boston College this weekend. The first game begins at 7:00 p.m. Thursday and will be played at the prestigious Fenway Park — home of the Boston Red Sox. The game will be viewable on ACC Network.

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