The 'Hoos won their first CWS game yesterday over the Cal Bears 4-1. They move on to play USC Tuesday night at 7 PM. Photo courtesy of Sarah Tolzmann (@notetosarah)
In my preview I wrote up before the game, I mentioned that in order for UVa to win they needed to play their game. Have some timely hitting, get a strong pitching effort on the mound, and be solid in the field. Fortunately for the UVa fans, that's exactly what they did.
UVa's ace on the mound, Danny Hultzen started the game and struggled a bit due to Cal's gameplan. Judging by the Bear's presence at the plate, it seems they wanted to wear Danny down. Make him throw some pitches instead of jumping at the first one they thought might be hittable. That gameplan worked exceptionally well especially in the first couple innings where Hultzen was forced to throw more pitches than he or Coach Kuhn would have liked.
Hultzen ended up with somewhere close to 30 pitches in the first inning (two times the amount UVa pitchers want per inning) but settled down and was able to pitch into the seventh inning. Danny ended up pitching 6.1 innings and only gave up three hits and three walks while striking out six. Instead of opting for the usual relief pitcher, Coach O'Connor gave the ball to Tyler Wilson. As many of you will know, Tyler began is career in the bullpen but switched to the starting role at the beginning of this year. I wasn't shocked but was a bit surprised to see Wilson come out of the pen as I expected him to be slated to start the second game.
Coach O'Connor talked about his decision to insert Wilson into the game in the postgame press conference:
Tyler and I had a conversation two days ago, and I told him what my game plan was, that if we had an opportunity to win the game in the back half of the game that I was going to use him out of our bullpen.
And then potentially start him Game 3. We have that luxury, because he pitched 35 games for us out of our pen last year, and he understands what that's about. And fortunately we have some really good depth from a starting pitching standpoint. And it allowed us to do that. That doesn't mean that I don't have confidence in our bullpen. But I just felt like it was the right thing to do, and we're in this thing to win it. And fortunately it worked out.
Wilson pitched into the ninth inning before giving up a two out run and handing the ball off to Branden Kline who closed the game out to earn his 18th save of the season and give UVa their second win in school history at the College World Series.
At the plate, the 'Hoos made the Cal defense bend, but it never seemed to break. Nearly every inning UVa had runners on base and in scoring position but were unable to capitalize. Catcher John Hicks discussed the frustration postgame:
We had confidence the whole time. Their pitchers did an unbelievable job of keeping us in the game until we could string a few hits together. We had plenty of opportunities early in the ballgame, and I personally had one. And we just had to get a ball in the air or get a ball in the middle of the field and we'd score the run. But we didn't come up with the clutch hit. But we knew that we'd come through eventually, that we'd eventually get on the board. And their pitchers did a great job of keeping us there.
In the seventh, the Cavaliers had had enough and third year Keith Werman was able to leadoff the inning with a single and score from third on a single from fellow third year Hicks. Chris Taylor followed suit and scored on a 1-out Steven Proscia sacrifice fly to give UVa all the runs they would need.
In the eighth, the 'Hoos added some insurance runs to their lead. 4thyear CF Kenny Swab lead off the inning witha single and scored on a one out triple from 1B Jared King. King would score just one batter later thanks to another single from Keith Werman.
The 'Hoos will square off in the winners bracket Tuesday night against defending National Champion USC. South Carolina was able to beat Texas A&M in walkoff fashion in the nightcap on Sunday to move to 1-0 and face the Cavaliers. Cal will play A&M at 2 PM in the first elimination game of the bracket.
I will be looking into USC's team and setting up a preview for you all as well as having a Q&A with SBNation's USC blog, "Garnet and Black Attack". Until then, wear your orange and blue proudly because the boys are one step closer to bringing home a national title to Charlottesville. Go Hoos!