Just over a month ago, Virginia stood 17-18 on the season and in serious jeopardy of missing their third NCAA Tournament in a row. Then the Hoos got hot winning 12 of their next 16 and setting up an ACC Semifinal matchup with the equally hot Duke Blue Devils (coming into he game winning ten in a row). It was a tight affair throughout with Duke getting the better of the Cavaliers and moving on to ACC Tournament Final with a 4-2 win. But for Virginia, it put a cap on marvelous May that’s seen them move from the outside looking in, to the bubble, to comfortably in next week’s NCAA Tournament.
The game started less than ideal for Mike Vasil and the Hoos as Duke leadoff batter Joey Loperfido hit a no-doubt home run to the opposite field. Two innings later, he’d do it again in almost an identical spot over the left field porch. Not to be outdone, his teammate Ethan Murray immediately followed that up with a deep bomb of his own making the score 3-0 Blue Devils.
Virginia would get one run back in the bottom half of the third with a left field home run off the bat of Alex Tappen. It was Tappen’s third home run of the season and second in as many days at the ACC Tournament. The Cavaliers made the score 3-2 in the bottom of the fourth when Logan Michaels’ line drive bounced off Duke first baseman Chris Crabtree scoring Kyle Teel.
The Hoos turned to the bullpen in the top of the fifth after Vasil surrendered a one out double to Michael Rothenberg. Vasil exited the game pitching 4.1 innings, giving up four runs (three earned) on seven hits, two walks and five strike outs. Brandon Neeck came in and got a strikeout, but did give up a double on a blooper behind third. After Virginia handed the game over to Kyle Whitten, Rothenberg scored when Nic Kent couldn’t handle a grounder off the bat of Erikson Nichols
That would be all the Blue Devils would need as they rode a fantastic pitching performance by Luke Fox. The Duke starter had Virginia off balance all day going seven strong giving up only two runs on eight hits, but most importantly, zero walks.
Virginia will return to Charlottesville where they’ll find out their NCAA Regional fate on Selection Monday. Most projections have them as a three seed in a Regional and while they certainly would have loved to have brought home a conference championship, they are playing the type of baseball that will make them a dangerous out in June. The NCAA Baseball Selection Show will be Monday, May 31st at 12 PM on ESPN2.