After about seven innings on Friday I was beginning to think that the week long break in games for exams were taking a toll on the Cavaliers and they were going to sleepwalk through the entire weekend against the Blue Devils. Luckily for all of us, this team doesn't know how to say "die," stormed back on Friday, then showed Duke who really was the better team the rest of the weekend.
It certainly wasn't pretty, but in the end the boys took care of business. This seems to be a bit of theme from the Cavaliers: play it close then attack the other team's bullpen and win the game in the 8th or 9th innings. Friday was no different. Brandon Waddell turned in a pretty good start only giving up two earned runs on five hits over 6.1 innings. Unfortunately, he also surrendered two unearned runs over those innings which put the Cavaliers in a hole. Entering the 9th, the Hoos were trailing 5-3 and hadn't scored more than a single run since the first inning. It didn't even start off well with Joe McCarthy leadoff and grounded out. Luckily, Brandon Downes followed up with his 7th triple of the year and scored on a wild pitch. Derek Fisher followed Downes with a single of his own and his pinch runner scored on a Reed Gragnani single to tie the game. The Blue Devils intentionally loaded the bases which lead to Nate Irving singling in the winning run.
I keep thinking this luck is going to run out or they'll run out of time, but it doesn't seem to run out. I have mentioned before and stand by the thought that these comebacks will be next to impossible against the better teams the boys will be playing in the next month whether it be in the ACC or NCAA tournament. Here's an idea for the team: score about ten runs in the first three innings and not worry about the end. Ya know, like you did on Saturday and Sunday.
It wasn't close and it wasn't pretty on Saturday. Got out of hand real quick thanks to an offensive explosion from UVa. By the 4th inning the Cavs had a 15-1 lead and never looked back. All but two Cavaliers who came to the plate recorded at least one hit, but every single starter had at least one hit and one run scored. There was only one starter that didn't have an RBI. It's hard to pick out the leader of the pack, but Mike Papi had himself quite a day. The 2nd year is taking advantage of all the playing time he's had over the last month and continued that streak on Saturday with a 4-4 day with four RBI and three runs scored. Reed Gragnani, Kenny Towns, and Downes also boosted their batting averages with three hits of their own. On the mound the Cavaliers held the Blue Devils at bay. Yes, they gave up eight runs in doing so, but Coach Kuhn has a saying of "up or down five, everything is a strike." The boys were up five nearly the entire game, so Duke runs were likely to come from throwing so many strikes.
Sunday wasn't much different than Saturday for the Cavaliers. They fell behind early by giving up three runs in the second inning, but they jumped back on top in the bottom half of the inning with five runs of their own. Two more runs in the fourth and seven more over the 7th and 8th innings all but secured the series sweep. Gragnani had another ridiculous game with four hits and three runs scored. First year Joe McCarthy chimed in with four hits of his own, while Nate Irving and Mike Papi had two more hits. Nick Howard didn't have his best stuff allowing four runs on eight hits over 3.2 innings. Fortunately for the Cavaliers, Third Year phenom Kyle Crockett hadn't pitched all weekend and need some work. Kyle came in and held Duke to two runs over the next four innings before handing the ball off to Austin Young to close out the Cavaliers' 14-6 victory.
With the sweep, the Hoos moved their record to 42-8 overall and 20-7 in the ACC. They currently have the 3rd best RPI in the country and the fourth best winning percentage in the country. Not to be overshadowed, this is the 8th time in Coach O'Connor's tenure in Charlottesville that the team has gotten to the 40 win plateau. The other two seasons he got the team to 39 wins. How impressive is that? Think about this; in the roughly 123123 years that UVa had baseball before Coach O'Connor, the team only had one 40 win season. He's making a lot of money now, but Coach O'Connor and Boland probably deserve another raise. (Maybe take some of that lax money that's being put to waste?)
Monday is a day off before VCU comes to town for the final weekday game of the year.