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Virginia baseball takes care of business in road series victory at Louisville

The Cavalier offense scored double digits in every game, sandwiching a loss with a pair of victories

The Cavaliers prepare for another inning of stellar defense.
The Cavaliers prepare for another inning of stellar defense.

After a dominant week that included a key home series win over then-No.10 North Carolina and a midweek victory over VCU, the Virginia baseball team went on the road to play Louisville. The Cavaliers (28-8, 11-7 ACC) came into the series ranked 11th in the country, while the Cardinals (21-14, 7-8 ACC) are unranked. Despite dropping the middle game of the series, Virginia was able to win the other two and defeat an inferior opponent away from home. 

Game 1 — Virginia 21, Louisville 3

For the third time this season, the Cavalier offense scored over 20 runs in a game. This time, it was all about the long hits. Freshman infielder Henry Ford opened the game with a blast to left center field to put Virginia up 2-0, and the team never looked back. While Louisville got one run in the bottom of the first inning with a home run of their own, ultimately it would not matter. 

The Cavaliers put on three more runs in the second inning due to a home run from graduate catcher Jacob Ference and some big hits from junior infielder Griff O’Ferrall and graduate outfielder Bobby Whalen. Virginia then scored one more run in the third inning when Ford hit his second home run of the game. Already up by several runs, the Virginia offense cooled down for a bit, and the game stalled for a couple innings at 6-1. 

Things would not stay this way for long though, as both teams would score two runs in the sixth inning, and the Cavaliers would pour on an additional three in the seventh inning through a string of singles. Up 11-3 in the ninth inning, Virginia was already almost certain to win the game. 

However, they certainly sealed the deal in the last frame — the Cavaliers had nine hits, two of which were home runs, in the ninth inning and scored ten more runs to put the final score at 21-3. Jumping off to a commanding lead early in the game was crucial, as it quelled any hope of a Cardinal comeback.

“Offensively, we jumped out right away,” Coach Brian O’Connor said. “There were numerous guys that had big days.”

Meanwhile, Virginia got an electric 11 strikeout performance out of sophomore pitcher Evan Blanco, who has looked like the ace of the Cavalier staff. 

“Evan Blanco has pitched great all year long, he’s given us a chance to win,” O’Connor said. “I thought last week was going to be his best outing of the year, and then he built on that today and did better.”

Game 2 — Virginia 10, Louisville 14

While it was Virginia who ran out of the gates hot in game one, it was the exact opposite in game two. The Cardinals’ offense took advantage of another awful outing from sophomore pitcher Kevin Jaxel, who has given up more runs than total innings pitched. Jaxel was subbed out after just one inning, in which Louisville scored five runs off five hits. The situation did not get any better going forward, as the Cardinals scored two more in both the second and the third inning off of junior pitcher Blake Barker. 

Despite being down 9-1 through three innings, the Cavaliers did not quit. They scored four in the fourth inning from a string of walks and singles from Ference, sophomore infielder Luke Hanson, freshman infielder Eric Becker and O’Ferrall. The pitching also settled in a bit as well, with junior pitcher Jay Woolfolk blanking Louisville for a few innings. 

Unfortunately, this did not last for long as the Cardinals would outscore Virginia 5-0 in the sixth and seventh innings to go back up 14-5. Here, the lack of depth in the Cavalier bullpen, a season long problem, really shined through. Once Woolfolk ran out of steam, there was nobody to back him up and generate outs. 

A late game comeback effort gave Virginia some hope. Becker singled in the eighth inning to drive in two runs, and a three-run home run in the ninth inning from sophomore utility player Aidan Teel put the Cavaliers within five runs. However, the comeback ended there and left a sour taste in the mouths of the team.

“We did not play Virginia baseball today,” O’Connor said. “We gave too many free passes, whether it be walks or stolen bases and did not handle the ball well defensively.”

Game 3 — Virginia 16, Louisville 7

Determined to win the road series, Virginia struck early and often in game three. Sophomore outfielder Harrison Didawick got things going with a solo shot to right field, and Becker kept it going after some singles with a three-run blast to make the score 4-0 after two innings. Junior outfielder Casey Saucke expanded the lead to 5-0 with another solo home run before Louisville got three runs back with a home run of their own. 

The Cavaliers then scored a few runs with small ball, as they brought the score up to 7-3 through five innings with a sacrifice fly from junior utility man Ethan Anderson and a steal of home plate from Didawick. 

From then on, the long ball dominated the game. A series of hits capped off by another home run from Ford put Virginia up 11-3, and then a Cardinal home run cut it to 11-4. Two home runs from Hanson in the seventh and ninth innings would then bring the score up to 13-4 before Saucke would hit a bases-clearing double to put the Cavalier lead at 12 runs. Louisville would hit one more home run in the bottom of the ninth to make the score 16-7, but it was too little too late — Virginia had won the game and the series. 

This series epitomized what Virginia baseball has been this year, a buzzsaw lineup where there are no easy outs. Louisville was forced to use numerous pitchers in every game, and very few could tame the Cavaliers for more than an inning or two. However, it also highlighted how weak the pitching is for Virginia. Besides Blanco and Woolfolk, the Cavaliers are incredibly lacking on arm talent. This will continue to hurt them in big games if arms do not step up in the future. 

Virginia has two midweek games — Tuesday at Old Dominion at 6:00 p.m., and Wednesday at home against George Mason at 6:00 p.m. — before continuing ACC play this weekend. The Cavaliers will take on Georgia Tech at home Friday, with the first game beginning at 6:00 p.m. Games can be watched on ACCNX. 


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