The Hoos baseball team faced another strong opponent this past weekend when Clemson came to Charlottesville. Just like every other weekend so far this season, the Cavaliers took care of business when it mattered most.
In game one of the series, Cavalier ace Danny Hultzen showed that he had a touch of humanity left in him and that he was not Cy Young reincarnated. He struggled a bit with his command but even while struggling he was able to go 6 strong innings and while only giving up 3 runs on 8 hits and 2 walks. Of those 8 hits he gave up, not a single was for extra bases. The Hoos struck first in the 1st inning with 4th year Tyler Cannon hitting his first home run of the season by putting the Clemson offering into the Hoo Zone in left field. After Clemson struck back with 3 runs over the next 4 innings the Hoos got off the floor by tying it up in the 6th with a 2 run bomb by 1st year Stephen Bruno, his 3rd of the season.
Tyler Wilson came in to pitch the 7th and threw 3 brilliant scoreless innings. Going into the 9th tied at 3 the Hoos were lead off by Jarrett Parker who lined a single into right field. Pinch hitter Keith Werman followed Parker with a perfectly placed sacrifice bunt that he was able to beat out. John Barr followed Werman with a sacrifice that moved the two runners to 2nd and 3rd with only 1 out. Clemson coach Jack Leggett opted to walk Cavalier Franco Valdes to get to 1st year Stephen Bruno and get the force play at any base. Many have criticized the move by Leggett to walk Valdes instead of going after the strikeout prone catcher. It was a baseball move that will be made 98 times out of 100. Even after you walk Franco you bring up a 1st year with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th with the score tied. I certainly don't blame Leggett for walking Valdes. Anyways, after battling, Bruno was able to muscle a jammed line drive over the drawn in 3rd baseman and score Parker for the win 4-3.
In the first game on Saturday, the Cavaliers got bit by multiple errors from their star shortstop. Going into the 9th the Hoos were down 5-4 and had stolen back the momentum after scoring 2 runs in the 8th to pull within a run. With one out in the 9th, 4th year pitcher Neal Davis induced a groundball to Cannon who allowed it to eat him up at SS for the first runner of the inning. Davis didn't allow it to faze him as he got the next batter to ground into what was sure to be an inning ending double play. Unfortunately, Cannon was unable to handle the toss from 2b Keith Werman that allowed both runners to reach base safely. As luck would have it, both of those runners would score as well the next batter giving the Tigers an 8-4 lead that would only be cut into by a solo home run from Kenny Swab.
The 2nd game of the day on Saturday showed why this team is the #1 team in the nation. After being punched in the mouth by the Tigers in the early game the Hoos rebounded with a stellar pitching performance from starting pitcher Cody Winiarski. Winiarski allowed only 1 run on the 6 hits he gave up. The majority of the offense was supplied by two solo home runs from Kenny Swab (his 2nd on the weekend) and Franco Valdes. After 6 innings, the Hoos lead 3-1 and turned the game over to the stellar bullpen mainstays Tyler Wilson and Kevin Arico who combined to throw 3 scoreless innings to close the game out and get Arico his 8th save of the season.
After taking 2 of 3, there shouldn't be a soul in the nation that pays attention to college baseball that could doubt that the UVA baseball team isn't one of the top 3 in the nation. The only 2 teams out there who have an argument to be ahead of the Cavs are Arizona St and UCLA; both are undefeated on the year. I wouldn't be surprised if the Cavs fall a bit in the rankings to probably #2 in a few of the polls. Once again though, these rankings MEAN NOTHING. The Hoos just want to be in the top 8 going into Memorial Day weekend so that they can wrap up a national seed and play at the Dav in the Regionals and Super Regionals.
For my personal predictions, if you will recall, I said the Hoos would take 2 of 3 from the Tigers. Turns out, I was right. That puts my record at 22 of the 24 games predicted correctly this year. I am batting over .900 people. Time ya'll start to recognize. As for this week coming up, the Hoos host Towson on Tuesday and Wednesday before traveling to NC St this weekend. The (other) Tigers (Towson) have given the program some tough games the past few years but I don't see any struggle with taking care of business and winning both games this week. You heard it here first people, and always remember to follow @STLUVaBaseball on Twitter for all your UVA baseball coverage.