UVA’s bats come alive, Savino solid on mound in NCAA win over Coastal

By Jerry Ratcliffe

nate savino uva baseball

Nate Savino (Photo: UVA Athletics)

Virginia used a big, four-run third inning and went on to defeat Coastal Carolina, 7-2, in the opening round of the NCAA Baseball regional in Greenville, N.C., on Friday night.

The Cavaliers (39-17) face host top-seeded East Carolina, the overall No. 8 seed in the 64-team field, at 7 p.m. Saturday (ACC Network). ECU has won its last 19 straight contests.

UVA fell behind 2-0 early in the game, thanks to a pair of Cavalier errors before Brian O’Connor’s team found its offense. Virginia pushed across four runs in the third inning and three more in the fifth to pull away from the Chanticleers.

Eight Wahoos batters aided the comeback in the third. Jake Gelof got it started, driving in a run on a fielder’s choice, followed by Kyle Teel’s two-out, two-RBI double off the left-centerfield wall. Freshman Casey Saucke drilled an RBI single to left for a 4-2 lead.

Alex Tappen, who made the first of two spectacular diving catches to end Coastal’s fifth, led off UVA’s bottom half of the inning with a double to right. Gelof’s single drove in Tappen, marking his 76th RBI of the season, which leaves him one away from tying Pavin Smith’s UVA single-season record. Casey Saucke’s double to left scored Gelof, followed by fellow freshman Ethan Anderson’s infield single, bringing home Teel for the 7-2 lead.

“Offensively, our runs came in two innings where we just were opportunistic,” O’Connor said about the Cavaliers’ bats coming alive in the postseason. “We knew Coastal’s starter (Reid VanScoter) was very good. We watched a ton of film on him and to be the Pitcher of the Year in the Sun Belt, looking at his stat sheet, the guy had only given up two home runs the whole year.”

O’Connor also praised his starting pitcher, Nate Savino, who went 6.1 innings without allowing an earned run. The southpaw struck out four to earn his sixth win of the season.

“Savino, I thought, was terrific,” the Virginia skipper said. “He completely pounded the bottom of the zone, got a lot of ground balls. When he’s at his best, the fastball velocity is good and he’s at the bottom of the zone getting a lot of ground balls.

“When you play in this tournament, it certainly helps when you get guys that can pitch past the fifth inning, because it takes a lot. It takes a huge effort to advance out of this and go on to next weekend and he was outstanding tonight, as were Jay Woolfolk and Matt Wyatt.”

Woolfolk worked the final two outs of the seventh and Wyatt struck out the side in the ninth.

ECU (43-18) walloped Coppin State (24-29) by a 17-1 count in the earlier game. The Pirates are the hottest team in the nation, having won 19 straight games.

Virginia is expected to start left-hander Brian Gursky, an All-ACC selection who has a spectacular change-up, against East Carolina.

The Cavaliers did not have to go to their closer, Brandon Neeck, in Friday’s game, which gives them a deeper bullpen for the rest of the weekend.

Box Score


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