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Virginia loses series to Pittsburgh, falls to 4-8 in ACC play

The Cavaliers inconsistent bats and defense haunted them throughout a 2-1 series loss against Pitt.

Pittsburgh v Rutgers

For many, Easter weekend involves celebrating a beloved figure returning from the dead to spread belief and joy among his followers once again. Unfortunately, for the Virginia Cavaliers baseball team, the rock that sits between them and returning to their winning ways will need an act of God to be moved.

In the most baffling result of the season (even more confusing than losing to VMI, Eastern Kentucky, or Yale, and needing extra innings to beat William and Mary despite giving up no hits), the Cavalier baseball team lost 2 games to 1 in a three game series at Pittsburgh.

Since joining the ACC baseball ranks in 2014, the Panthers baseball team has failed to win more than 11 conference games and have an average record of 22-30. Virginia is currently tied for last place in the ACC with the Pittsburgh Panthers. For comparison, in football this is equivalent to saying Miami is tied for last place in the Coastal with Virginia. Yeah, not great.

In the lone win of the series on Friday, the Cavalier offense looked like they had figured some things out. They were all over the Pittsburgh pitching as they mashed 13 hits and plated 10 runs in the game. But the continuing trend of shaky fielding haunted the ‘Hoos as they kicked the ball around 3 times, allowing 3 unearned Pitt runs, and made Derek Casey’s day unnecessarily difficult. Fortunately, Casey and Bennett Sousa, who came on in relief in the eighth, are both capable of striking batters out and taking pressure off the unproven defense. Sousa went on to pick up his third save of the year to seal an uncertain 13-10 win.

Again, on Saturday, the Virginia offense continued to look sharp en route to 11 hits and 5 runs. Daniel Lynch racked up a career-high 12 Ks in his 7.1 innings of work to earn his third consecutive 11-plus-strikeout game. Despite only allowing 4 hits, Pittsburgh was able to get to Lynch for 5 earned runs. The first three scored in the fifth inning following his only two walks of the day and were immediately followed up by a 2 RBI double. Lynch gave up a solo homerun in the seventh and a runner he was responsible for scored in the eighth to bring his tally to five.

After Lynch exited in the eighth, freshman Andrew Abbott entered for the ‘Hoos. Uncharacteristically for Virginia teams, the bullpen has been disappointing. The trend would continue in this one, as Abbott gave up the game winning, 2-RBI single to Pittsburgh’s cleanup hitter.

The rubber match on Sunday was no more inspiring for the Virginia faithful. After 24 total hits in the first two games of the series, the Cavalier offense ground to a screeching halt and managed only 3 hits and 1 run on the day. Freshman Grant Donahue took the loss on the mound, giving up 3 runs in 2.2 innings of work, striking out 2 and walking 2. The rest of the game was a bullpen day for Virginia as four relievers combined to finish the last 5.2 innings. Virginia’s lone run of the day game on a Cayman Richardson RBI ground out in the top of the eighth inning.

After 28 games, the Virginia Cavaliers sit at an underwhelming 15-13, and are the owners of a 4-8 conference record. The ‘Hoos have dropped 5 out-of-conference games to the likes of VMI, Eastern Kentucky and Yale, and have now lost 3 out of their first 4 ACC series.

After the injuries sustained by Cam Simmons, Joe McCarthy and Evan Sperling, it became apparent this team’s ceiling was substantially lower than it was at the beginning of the season, both offensively and defensively. To make matters more difficult, Virginia’s pitching rotation and bullpen features a plethora of freshman, sophomore and first year starting pitchers, and no true “ace”.

Fans might contend that this is a “bad” Virginia team, but this season appears to being shaping up as a positive learning experience for the youngsters on the team.

Performers of the Series

Daniel Lynch earns this weekend’s Streaking the Lawn Pitcher of the Series award following his third consistent start in a row. Lynch is beginning to develop into the dominant, reliable starter fans hoped he would be when he first signed with the ‘Hoos.

Andy Weber’s continually red-hot bat earns him this weekend’s Streaking the Lawn Pitcher of the Series award. Weber currently owns a .375 batting average and has proven to be a steady performer at the dish and the most consistent infielder on the roster.

The Cavaliers return home this week to start a 10 game homestand. They take on ODU on Tuesday and start a 3 game series with in-state rival Virginia Tech on Friday at 3pm.