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Virginia baseball eliminated from ACC Tournament in pool play

The Cavaliers picked up a win versus Georgia Tech Wednesday before falling to fifth-seeded Florida State in the pool elimination game

<p>The Cavaliers' offense came alive in the seventh inning, but their deficit was too large to overcome.</p>

The Cavaliers' offense came alive in the seventh inning, but their deficit was too large to overcome.

In the first week of postseason play, Virginia faced Georgia Tech and Florida State in Charlotte, N.C. in the pool play stage of the ACC Tournament. Fresh off the back of a weekend sweep of Virginia Tech, the fourth-seeded Cavaliers (41-15, 18-12 ACC) defeated the ninth-seeded Yellow Jackets (31-23, 15-15 ACC) before falling to the fifth-seeded Seminoles (41-14, 17-12 ACC) and ending their run in the tournament.

Game 1 — Virginia 13, Georgia Tech 0

Sophomore left-handed pitcher Evan Blanco made the start for Virginia Wednesday in the tournament opener. After a scoreless first inning, the Cavaliers were on fire offensively as sophomore outfielder Harrison Didawick kicked off the inning with a two-run home run — number 23 of his season — that tied Jake Gelof’s single-season program record for home runs. The scoring did not slow down in the second inning, as RBI singles from junior infielder Griff O’Ferrall and freshman infielder Henry Ford shot the Cavaliers out to a 4-0 lead. 

Georgia Tech made an effort to score in the bottom of the second with two singles, but Blanco subsequently retired the next three batters and stranded the runners in scoring position, ending the inning with a 4-0 lead that was not threatened again for the rest of the game.

In the top of the third, sophomore infielder Henry Godbout contributed his seventh home run of the year and extended the lead to 5-0. Blanco continued to put in the work on the mound and rendered another inning scoreless for the Yellow Jackets.

Virginia continued to spread the love amongst the offense in the fourth inning with junior outfielder Casey Saucke adding a two-run home run of his own to inch the lead out to 7-0. Saucke added to the offense again in the top of the fifth, contributing a two-run double alongside a third run to put the Cavaliers up 10 runs over Georgia Tech. 

In the sixth, O’Ferrall had a two-run double of his own alongside another run that put the score at 13-0 in favor of the Cavaliers. After pitching six innings and only allowing five hits, Blanco retired from the mound. Freshman right-handed pitcher Matt Augustin pitched the seventh and final inning of the match and with a quick finish as Virginia sealed its fourth run-rule victory in its last nine games.

Game 2 — Virginia 7, Florida State 12

Graduate right-handed pitcher Joe Savino started Friday for Virginia in a must-win game against Florida State. Savino retired the first three Seminole batters with two ground-outs and a strike out. In the bottom of the first, graduate outfielder Bobby Whalen hit a single up the middle but unfortunately had no opportunity to score. The second inning ended scoreless in similar fashion to the first. Savino retired the next three batters, while Florida State struck out the three Cavalier batters.

The first run of the game was scored in the bottom of the third after an O’Ferrall single and Whalen double allowed O’Ferrall to round the bases, making the score 1-0. But the Seminoles retaliated in the top of the fourth, adding two runs to take the lead over Virginia as the Cavaliers were unable to respond in the bottom of the inning.

Florida State added two more runs to their score in the top of the fifth. After the first run, junior left-handed pitcher Blake Barker took over for Savino. Barker walked the first batter he faced, adding the second run to the Seminoles score. Junior right-handed pitcher Chase Hungate immediately took over for Barker and retired the last batter, but Virginia was down three runs.

The scoring stopped until the bottom of the sixth, when O’Ferrall hit a home run to center field to bring the deficit to two. Whalen was able to get into scoring position after being walked, stealing second base and advancing to third on a Florida State error, but he was unable to complete his trip around the bases.

Both squads exploded offensively in the seventh inning. Virginia made three pitching changes in an effort to stifle the Seminole runs, but Florida State was able to extend the lead to 11-2 in the top of the seventh. The Cavaliers made their best efforts to respond accordingly in the bottom of the inning, as junior utility player Ethan Anderson hit a two-run home run that cut the lead to 11-4. Godbout hit a double that was followed by another home run — this time from sophomore infielder Luke Hanson — making the score 11-6. The third and final home run of the inning was hammered by Saucke, bringing Virginia to within four runs. 

The Seminoles added one more run in the top of the eighth, but Virginia was unable to add any more runs to the score with the game ending 12-7 in favor of Florida State.

The Cavaliers certainly have reason to be disappointed with their performance in the ACC Tournament, losing to a lower seed in an elimination game. The subpar performance from the bullpen continues to hinder Virginia as they gave up seven runs in the seventh inning. Time and time again, the Cavaliers have looked to the bullpen to make big pitches and give the offense the opportunity to create big leads. Despite those looks too often ending in disappointment, Coach Brian O’Connor remains optimistic they can turn it around.

“We have confidence in them,” O’Connor said. “They need to learn it’s about constantly learning about the situation you’re in and managing it and executing it.”

Heading into the NCAA Tournament field announcement Monday, Virginia will be looking for answers from within as the team readies itself for its final postseason opportunity. 


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