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Virginia baseball sweeps Commonwealth Clash in final regular season series

The Cavaliers’ hitting shined as they powered their way to three straight wins

<p>With the regular season over, the focus for the Cavaliers now shifts over to the ACC Tournament.&nbsp;</p>

With the regular season over, the focus for the Cavaliers now shifts over to the ACC Tournament. 

After a devastating home series loss to NC State that put their regional host prospects in jeopardy last weekend, Virginia baseball was back at home this weekend for the final match of the 2023-24 Commonwealth Clash. With a chance to make a statement and climb the standings before the ACC Tournament, the Cavaliers (40-14, 18-12 ACC) seized the opportunity — not allowing the Hokies (32-20, 14-16 ACC) to win a single game.

Game 1 — Virginia 7, Virginia Tech 3

Stellar defense was the calling card for Virginia in the opening contest Thursday. At the same time, players like graduate outfielder Bobby Whalen and junior infielder Griff O’Ferrall were able to limit baserunners by making plays. Sophomore pitcher Evan Blanco truly put the team on his back in this game though, giving up no earned runs across 7.1 innings against the Hokies. 

“Evan Blanco was just outstanding tonight, his best start that he’s ever had in our uniform,” Coach Brian O’Connor said. 

The Cavalier offense was sparked by a home run in the second inning from freshman infielder Eric Becker, which put them up 2-0, as it followed a walk from sophomore outfielder Harrison Didawick. The offense stayed hot in the third inning, as freshman infielder Henry Ford singled and graduate catcher Jacob Ference hit a home run to bring the total to 4-0. A Didawick double followed by a single from sophomore infielder Henry Godbout brought the score up to 5-0 by the end of the inning. 

The Hokies would respond with two unearned runs in the fourth inning, but Virginia would earn one of those back in the fifth inning off of a Didawick home run to right field. This was Didawick’s 20th of the season, making him the third Cavalier to ever reach that seasonal mark. A flurry of hits in the sixth inning gave Virginia another run, bringing their lead up to 7-2. 

After junior pitcher Chase Hungate replaced Blanco in the eighth inning, Virginia Tech tried to rally and responded quickly with a couple of hits. However, Hungate clamped down quickly and cut off the run while the score was still 7-3. Finally, graduate pitcher Angelo Tonas closed out the game for the Cavaliers with a quick three outs. 

Game 2 — Virginia 13, Virginia Tech 3

While the Virginia offense was already thriving in the first game, they really kicked it up a notch in Friday’s game. The Hokies were able to scratch a run across in the first inning to go up 1-0, but this would be erased almost immediately as Didawick hit his 21st home run of the season to even the score. In the third inning, the Cavaliers would take the lead after their five singles generated three runs. 

If the third inning was the inning of singles, the fourth inning was the inning of home runs. Becker, junior utility player Ethan Anderson and junior outfielder Casey Saucke all hit home runs in this inning to give Virginia a 9-1 lead. Anderson would follow his performance up in the next inning with another home run to make the score 11-1.

Virginia Tech would scrape another two runs across in the sixth inning to reduce their deficit to eight, but Godbout almost immediately wiped those away by hitting a two-run home run to put the Cavaliers back up by 10 and leave them just three outs away from a mercy rule victory. 

Sophomore pitcher Ryan Osinski was able to get three outs easily in the seventh, and Virginia had earned themselves a series victory. In the second game, Osinski alongside graduate pitcher Joe Savino and junior pitcher Blake Barker were able to contain the Hokie offense much better than the pitching staff has been able to do all year. 

“I just thought our offensive approach today was really really outstanding throughout the entire lineup,” O’Connor said.

Game 3 — Virginia 10, Virginia Tech 9

As anticlimactic as the second game was, Saturday’s final matchup saw constant excitement and changes down the stretch. However, the opening portion of the game was very different — Virginia Tech jumped out of the gates hot, scoring seven runs in the first two innings. Graduate pitcher Owen Coady struggled to get outs, and junior pitcher Jay Woolfolk only did slightly better. It appeared as if Virginia’s Senior Day was a lost cause. A two-run home run from Saucke in the third inning would cut the deficit a bit, but the Cavaliers failed to score again for the next three innings. 

Things drastically changed in the seventh inning, however. A pitching change for the Hokies ended up being an awful idea, as Virginia immediately took to dismantling the Virginia Tech bullpen. A few singles, combined with home runs from Ford and Ference, meant that all of a sudden the Cavaliers were now tied with the Hokies. While both teams scored in the eighth inning, they continued to match each other, and the game went into extra innings.

Both bullpens really shined in extra innings. Neither team got a run across in the tenth, eleventh or twelfth innings, and it seemed as if this stalemate would last forever. Barker and Hungate were standouts for Virginia, putting on arguably their best performances of the season. 

The top of the thirteenth inning saw Virginia Tech finally break the stalemate via a sacrifice fly to go up 9-8. However, that would be all they scored this inning. With the game on the line, Anderson led off and was able to draw a walk. Then, Didawick took a huge swing and drove his 22nd home run deep into right center to give the Cavaliers the win. Having swept their rivals on senior night, Virginia could rest easy. 

“To see our guys respond and put up five spots like we did, we’ve been doing it all year long and to feel like you’re not out of any ball game and the clutch pitching [we] got out of our bullpen is great,” O’Connor said. 

With the regular season over, the focus for the Cavaliers now shifts over to the ACC Tournament. Virginia is the fourth-seeded team, meaning they will play in Pool D against fifth-seeded Florida State and ninth-seeded Georgia Tech. The Cavaliers went 1-2 against the Yellow Jackets this season, so the road to an ACC Championship will certainly not be easy. However, if Virginia can keep their hitting up, anything is possible. 

The Cavalier start their ACC Tournament play in Charlotte, N.C. Wednesday and Friday with one matchup against each team in their pool. Games will be broadcasted on ACC Network, with Wednesday’s contest against Georgia Tech beginning at 11 a.m. 


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