Cavaliers hang on for crucial 2-1 win over ECU to stay perfect in regional play

By Scott Ratcliffe

Photo: UVA Athletics

Virginia second-year first baseman Ethan Anderson dropped a go-ahead, RBI single into right field to score Ethan O’Donnell and break a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the seventh inning in Saturday’s crucial NCAA Charlottesville Regional winner’s bracket matchup against East Carolina. Anderson’s big hit was enough, as the No. 7 Cavaliers (47-12) prevailed, 2-1, and remained unbeaten heading into Sunday.

Virginia moves on to Sunday’s 6-p.m. contest with favorable odds to punch its ticket to the Super Regional round next week, as the Wahoos would have to lose Sunday and then again Monday (if necessary) in order to be eliminated. The Cavaliers will face the winner of the ECU-Oklahoma elimination game (Sunday, Noon), and whoever prevails between the Pirates and Sooners would need a second win Sunday night against UVA in order to force a seventh and deciding game to determine the weekend champion.

In the history of postseason college baseball, teams who begin a regional with two wins advance to the next round 81 percent of the time.

UVA got a solid seven innings out of starting pitcher Nick Parker Saturday evening, as the Coastal Carolina graduate transfer picked up where he left off against the Pirates after shutting them down as a member of the Chanticleers in last season’s NCAA Tournament (8.0 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 10 K, 2 BB).

On Saturday, Parker allowed just one run on five hits while walking one batter and striking out five. He capped off his outing with an inning-ending strikeout of Jacob Starling — on his 100th pitch of the night — and let out a yell and a fist pump on his way back to the dugout, much to the delight of the sold-out Disharoon Park crowd.

After Anderson’s heroics gave the Cavaliers the lead in the bottom of the seventh, 6-foot-10 junior left-hander Jake Berry came on to pitch the final two frames, and retired all six batters he faced (2.0 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 2 K, 0 BB) to notch the save, his sixth of the season.

Neither team could scratch a run across until the bottom of the third, as junior third baseman Jake Gelof looked to have set the UVA single-season home run record with a deep fly ball to center field, but the ball bounced off the glove of ECU’s Ryley Johnson and Gelof had to settle for a double after the play was reviewed by the umpiring crew.

The next batter, junior clean-up man and ACC Player of the Year Kyle Teel, wasted no time giving the Hoos a 1-0 lead with an RBI single to right that brought Gelof around from second base.

After Parker retired the first two batters he faced in the top of the fifth (he had set down a dozen-straight Pirates), Joey Berini reached on a single, just ECU’s second hit of the day. Berini then moved into scoring position on a Parker balk, and then advanced to third on an Alec Makarewicz infield knock off of Parker’s gloves, putting runners at the corners. Parker then put an end to the threat, striking out Lane Hoover looking to get out of the inning.

The Pirates (46-18) tied the game in the top of the sixth, however, as Johnson singled past a diving Henry Godbout with two down and runners on first and second. Carter Cunningham was initially held up at third on the relay throw, and Virginia had Cam Clonch in a rundown between second and third, but defensive miscommunication allowed Cunningham to score and Clonch to make it back safely to second.

The score remained knotted until the bottom of the seventh, as O’Donnell led off with a walk and then stole second as Gelof struck out during the following at-bat. Northern Virginia native (and former Charlottesville Tom Sox pitcher) Carter Spivey was brought in from the bullpen, and he was able to record the second out on a Teel grounder that moved O’Donnell over to third. Anderson sent the second pitch he saw into shallow right field, and the Cavaliers were back on top. Casey Saucke followed with a single of his own, the Hoos’ ninth hit of the night, but Anthony Stephan flied out to deep center to end the inning.

Berry fanned two of the three ECU hitters he faced in the eighth, then slammed the door shut with a little help from his defense in the ninth. Anderson swiped a line drive down the first-base line for the initial out, then shortstop Griff O’Ferrall leaped up and snared the second out before O’Donnell caught the final out in center field.

Game Notes

Courtesy UVA Media Relations

  • O’Ferrall briefly tied Teel for the second most hits ever by a Cavalier in a single season with his 96th hit to lead off the bottom of the first. Two batters later, Teel tallied hit No. 97 for the year. The school mark is held by Phil Gosselin, who compiled 100 in 2010.
  • All three of O’Ferrall’s four hits in the regional have come in the first inning, two in the first against Army on Friday and one in his first at-bat on Saturday.
  • O’Donnell recorded his team-best, 18th stolen base of the year. The 18 stolen bases are the most in a season by a Cavalier Jake McCarthy in 2017 (27).
  • Casey Saucke put together his second-straight, three-hit performance and is 6 for 9 with two runs scored and two RBI in two regional games.
  • Virginia improved to 6-2 in one-run games this season.
  • The Cavaliers matched the program’s single-game attendance record with a sellout crowd of 5,919 fans at Disharoon Park.
  • The quality start by Parker was his fourth of the year. UVA is 12-2 in games that Parker starts this season.