Whenever someone talks about this year’s Virginia lineup, they inevitably talk about Pavin Smith, Adam Haseley, Ernie Clement, and Cam Simmons. But what has made this team’s offense so potent is that top to bottom through the order, there just aren’t any easy outs. No more was that on display than in Virginia’s 6-3 win over Dallas Baptist to open the Fort Worth Regional. Virginia was led at the plate by Justin Novak and Andy Novak, the eighth and ninth batters in the Cavalier lineup. Novak had two hits and Weber had three and the two started things off in both of Virginia’s three-run innings. It’s a luxury for the lineup to continue on and throughout the game have runners on for the top of the order.
Then there’s Derek Casey on the mound. With Virginia’s pitching as thin as it’s been all season picking up the first game win without taxing the bullpen was paramount. Casey did that and more going seven innings and allowing Alec Bettinger and Tommy Doyle to pitch their eighth and ninth innings to seal the win for the Hoos. Casey was strong all night, never allowing Dallas Baptist any more than one baserunner at a time, thus neutralizing the Patriots big-time offense.
After both teams pitchers kept the opposition scoreless through two and a half innings, Virginia was able to break through in the bottom of the third inning. Novak led off the inning with single and Weber followed that up with a single of his own. Clement then blooped one into right field and when the Patriot’s right fielder, Evan Sandmann couldn’t handle it cleanly, Novak scored and Weber advanced to third. With runners at first and third, Clement stole second which took the double play out of the equation. Then Jake McCarthy’s ground ball to first allowed Weber to score from third and advance Clement. Haseley followed that up with a groundout RBI to first of his own scoring Clement and the Cavaliers had a 3-0 lead.
Dallas Baptist would strike back though doing what they do best, going deep. Over the next two innings, the Patriots lead off batter would go yard. First it was Jameson Hannah in the top of the fourth, then Tim Millard led off the fifth with a dinger of his own and the Patriots had cut the Wahoo lead to 3-2.
Just as he did in the third inning, Novak led off the bottom of the fifth by getting on base, this time on a walk. Weber came up with another single to advance him to third. Novak then scored on Clement’s sacrifice fly. After Haseley and Pavin Smith both walked to load the bases, Robbie Coman delivered a two-RBI double to left extending the Virginia lead to 6-2.
Derek Casey was terrific all game. Once given the lead, he settled down only having to get out of trouble in the fifth (after the lead-off home run) stranding a runner at second. He retired six of seven batters through the seventh before giving up another lead-off home run in the top of the eighth to Garrett Wolforth. He’d give way to Alec Bettinger who despite giving up an infield single to Hannah, would get out of the inning unscathed after an inning ending 6-4-3 double play.
Casey would end up throwing 7.0 innings, giving up three earned runs, all of which were solo home runs, on only six hits. One key to his outing was zero walks which limited the damage from the Patriot long-balls.
Tommy Doyle came on to pitch the ninth, and got himself into a bit of a jam. After striking out Austin Listi on one of his patented breaking balls, the ball scooted past Caleb Knight and Listi reached. Then on a ball that looked to be a tailor-made double play, Matt Duce was able to beat out the throw and keep the Patriots alive. Another wild pitch, a foul out, and a walk gave Dallas Baptist the tying run at the plate with two outs. After running the count full, Doyle was able to able to get Camden Duzenack to swing and miss for the game’s final out.
Virginia faces the winner of TCU vs. Central Connecticut State tomorrow from Fort Worth at 5 P.M EDT. It can’t be stressed enough how important this first win was for the Hoos. Daniel Lynch gets the ball for the Cavaliers tomorrow with a full complement of relief pitchers ready to go if need be.