Virginia’s pitching left plenty to be desired in Saturday’s loss to UConn, issuing 11 walks and allowing the Huskies to score 10 runs.
The Cavaliers’ pitching staff bounced back in a big way Sunday, holding the Huskies to just two unearned runs and issuing only one walk in a series-clinching win.
“It was great to see us come back and pitch like we were capable of,” head coach Brian O’Connor said.
Virginia (2-1) beat UConn 4-2 in Sunday’s series finale to open its spring strong. The 2-1 record marks the program’s best three-game start to a season since it began 2017-18 with a 2-1 record.
“That was the first time for me winning the first series,” junior Nic Kent said. “[O’Connor] was saying how that’s an ACC weekend right there. That’s preparing us for the next 12 weeks.”
The Cavaliers jumped out to an early lead in the series rubber match, starting the game with three consecutive singles, which helped push a pair of runs across in the opening frame. Kent singled to open the game and stole second to set up a threat. Seniors Marc Lebreux and Devin Ortiz tallied RBIs for the Cavaliers to give them a quick 2-0 lead.
UConn tallied its first run in the third inning, scoring on a wild pitch from Mike Vasil. UVa’s starter shut the door on the threat after allowing the run, forcing a pop up to strand a runner on third base.
After UConn cut the deficit to 2-1 in the top of the third, UVa answered in the bottom half of the inning. Once again, singles sparked a two-out rally. After a walk, Ortiz and senior Brendan Rivoli recorded singles. Rivoli’s soft shot to left field drove in senior Alex Tappen, who drew the two-out walk.
Vasil faced a test in the sixth inning with UVa still leading 3-1. Kyler Fedko singled up the middle with two outs and promptly stole second base. The right-hander recorded a strikeout to end the frame and let out a yell as he headed back to the dugout. Vasil ended the game with six strikeouts, allowing just an unearned run.
“Kind of one of those moments, close game, that you kind of get fired up for,” Vasil said. “When I struck him out, I think it really just sealed the deal for me and kind of put a lid on today.”
Emotions were on display again in the bottom of the seventh inning. Zack Gelof fell to the ground after taking a pitch to the arm. After a quick talk with coaches, Gelof remained in the game. He eventually came home to score on a two-out single by redshirt senior catcher Logan Michaels.
Once Gelof crossed the plate to give UVa its 4-1 lead, he roared before jogging to the dugout.
Senior Blake Bales took the mound for Virginia in the top of the eighth. The right-handed pitcher rallied after Lebreux lost the ball in the sun in left field, allowing UConn double to open the inning. After an inning-ending strikeout stranded a runner at third base, Bales gave a fist pump as he walked toward the Virginia dugout.
Closer Stephen Schoch wasn’t at his best in the ninth, but the sixth-year senior mustered enough quality pitches to help UVa earn a 4-2 win over the Huskies. He yielded the team’s one walk and made an error on a play at first base, but used a strikeout to end the game.
Schoch threw his glove into left field after the win before chest bumping teammates who ran out from the dugout to meet him on the mound.
“I think our energy and effort was really good today,” Kent said. “That’s what you need on championships Sundays in order to win the series, get those two wins for the weekend.”
Virginia is scheduled to host to VMI on Tuesday, although the Keydets missed action this weekend due to COVID-19 issues. As of Sunday evening, Virginia still planned on hosting VMI.