Virginia Bounces Back Against No. 5 Cards In Nightcap, Senior Day Saturday Morning

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photo courtesy Emma Sharon, UVA Media Relations

After dropping a 15-7 decision in the first game of a double-header to powerful Louisville, Brian O’Connor issued a challenge to his team during the 40-minute break before the nightcap.

“I told them that we needed a lot of guys on this club to step up and to show what we’re capable of, what we’re made of, and how we respond to the first game will show people what this team is about,” O’Connor said late Friday night.

Virginia bounced back strong and earned a split with the No. 5-ranked Cardinals, taking a 10-2 victory. The two teams will square off in the rubber match Saturday at Disharoon Park. Due to potential inclement weather, the game has been moved up from a 4 p.m. to an 11 a.m. start.

Senior Day ceremonies will take place at 10:40 a.m., and gates will open at 10. It is the last ACC home game for UVA. The Cavaliers host VCU Tuesday before closing their regular season at Virginia Tech next weekend.

O’Connor was impressed with how his team handled the situation, improving to 28-21 overall and 11-15 in the ACC. It was UVA’s seventh doubleheader of the season, the most since 2000. It was the fifth against ACC competition. The Cavaliers are 7-7 in doubleheaders.

“I expressed to them after the second game that I was very proud of what they did,” O’Connor said. “When you have a game like the first game, at home, there’s a lot of excitement, and then you don’t do the job. They showed what they were made of by bouncing back.

“That’s what we’re looking for, the character of our players and how they handle adversity. There has been times this year when we’ve lost the first game of a doubleheader and we haven’t played well in the second game.”

Louisville, which boasts one of the top offensive clubs in the country, scored seven of its 15 runs in the first game off home runs. The Cardinals jumped on UVA early on the strength of a grand slam by Justin Lavey.

Virginia got back to within 8-6 in the fourth inning but then Louisville went on a tear, scoring eight of the next nine runs of the game. The Cardinals’ Reid Detmers, who owns the ACC’s lowest ERA (2.08), earned his 10th win of the season.

The Cavaliers came back strong in the second game, riding a sterling pitching performance by freshman right-hander Mike Vasil, who turned in his best start of the season. Vasil pitched into the eighth inning, holding Louisville’s sluggers to only two runs on five hits.

UVA built its lead with a four-run second inning, and then Cayman Richardson belted his first career home run in the bottom of the third to put the Wahoos ahead, 8-1. Richardson went 3 for 4 with two runs scored and an RBI. Crozet’s Tanner Morris also went 3 for 4, and also scored two runs and had an RBI.

Andrew Abbott came in to close out the Cardinals, pitching two scoreless innings.

“Certainly that was the start of the year for Mike Vasil,” O’Connor said of his rookie’s second win of the season. “He’s had some good, solid outings but he’s been inconsistent, which typically most freshmen are. When his team needed him the most, he really stepped up at a difficult point of the season and saved our bullpen a little for tomorrow.”

The Virginia skipper said he was impressed with Vasil’s breaking balls for strikes in the game and how the freshman was locating his pitches, something that hasn’t always been the case for the Wellesley, Mass., pitcher.

“There were a handful of times [Friday night] where he went 3-0 in an at-bat, then battled back and got the out,” O’Connor said. “It’s those situations that he was previously not doing a good job with. He’d be 3-0, go to 3-1, then walk the guy. It was a big growing-up day for Mike Vasil and hopefully something he can build off of for weeks to come.”

O’Connor hopes his team gained enough spark Friday night to allow the Cavaliers to keep playing for weeks to come. As of this moment, Virginia hasn’t solidified itself for the ACC Championships coming up in two weeks.

“Our guys are fighting,” O’Connor said. “We’ve got a serious uphill battle to get into the NCAA Tournament. I’m not going to speculate what that is but I would imagine it would include winning a game Saturday (against Louisville and capture the series), and then having a great weekend at Virginia Tech (next week).

“What we need to do first is qualify for the ACCs. You get yourself in that tournament and anything can happen. Hopefully we can get on a little bit of a run here.”

Taking a series from the Cardinals (40-11, 19-7) won’t be easy.

“They showed in the first game why they’re the top offensive club in the league,” O’Connor said. “I look at Louisville and I think they have one of the top teams in this country. They’re very good offensively, they have good pitching depth, and they can absolutely defend. We’re going to have to be at our best.”


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