By: Greg Waters
Charlottesville, VA – Will Roberts (11-1) went nine shutout innings, scattering fours hits and setting down a career high 14 via the strikeout as the Virginia Cavaliers (50-9) took the opening game of the Charlottesville Regional. Designated hitter Danny Hultzen provide the offensive firepower going 3-for-4 including a triple and two singles and knocking in three Virginia base runners as the Hoos blanked Navy (33-24-1) 6-0.
The complete game shutout was Roberts second of the season. Earlier in the year Roberts tossed a perfect game against George Washington for his first. Today’s shutout was Virginia’s 15th of the year.
Virginia skipper Brian O’Connor noted he got everything he could have asked for his starting hurler Friday night.
“I don’t think you could have drawn it up any better for us today.” The Cavalier coach said. “For Will Roberts to come out today and throw a complete game is huge. You never know what situation you will be in a tournament like this, and pitching depth is always very important, so for Will to go out there and do what he did – he gave us nine innings which is huge.”
Navy’s Greg Dupell agreed.
“[Roberts] definitely located his pitches well and he was consistent, throwing fast balls for strikes, hitting his fastball and curve ball for strikes. It’s tough to hit a pitcher when he’s consistent for nine innings.”
Navy’s Ben Nelson (6-6) took the loss going 6.1. All six Virginia runs were earned runs charged to Nelson who allowed nine hits, fanned three and issued four base-on-balls.
The Cavaliers opened the scoring in the bottom of the first. Catcher John Hicks lined a two-out double to centerfield and Steven Proscia walked. Danny Hultzen followed lining a shot down the right field line just outside the reach of Navy first baseman Kash Manzelli to plate Proscia and Hicks.
Hultzen said getting those early runs was key for Roberts’ success on the mound.
“It was good to get the momentum on our side right away and get Will some run support right out of the gate,” said Hultzen.
Virginia continued the two-out magic in third inning as Chris Taylor led off the frame with a double. Proscia drew a two-out walk and again Hultzen was at the plate with runners in scoring position and two gone. Again, the Cavalier DH delivered. Hultzen lined Nelson’s 1-1 offering back up the middle to score Taylor. Kenny Swab’s RBI single brought Proscia around to increase the Virginia lead to 4-0.
Navy coach Paul Kostacopoulas commented on Virginia hitting approach after the game.
“I think they do a great job offensively,” ne noted. “They are tremendous with two strikes. They are very patient, in the sense that they’re not going to chase”.
Virginia expanded its lead in the fourth when Nelson issued one-out back-to-back walks to Werman and Taylor. Werman scored on John Barr’s single through the left side of the infield and John Hicks’ solo shot in the bottom of the seventh pushed the Cavalier advantage to 6-0. The home run was Hick’s second in as many games.
Taylor and Hicks both went 2-for-4 including three extra base hits.
But the story of the game was Roberts. He did not walk a batter and retired the last 17 Navy hitters he faced.
“I got in a groove,” said Roberts. “I was spotting up pretty well on the outside half and I think the big thing for me is I was around the zone the whole game, I didn’t put anybody on base and I made them earn everything they got.”
#3 St. John’s 2 #2 East Carolina 0
Charlottesville, VA – St. John’s Jimmy Brennan finished 3-for-5 with an RBI to help power a nine-hit attack and right-hander Sean Hagan fanned six in 7.1 scoreless innings, lifting the No. 3-seeded Red Storm to a 2-0 win over East Carolina (39-20) on Friday night in game two of the 2011 NCAA Baseball Regional at Davenport Field on the grounds of the University of Virginia. Matt Carasiti got the final five outs for his 8th save of the season.
St. John’s improved to 36-20 overall and advanced in the winners bracket to meet top-seeded Virginia Saturday night at 6 p.m.
The shutout was the Red Storm’s fourth one on the season.
ECU starting pitcher Mike Wright made his second career appearance in the NCAA Tournament and his first career start going 8.0 innings, the second-longest outing of his career. Wright allowed two runs on seven hits, struck out five and walked four. But with no run support, Wright (6-4) took the loss.
“I gave up two runs, and I got the loss,” said Wright. “If I didn’t give up two runs, we’re tied and weʼre still playing. I donʼt blame the hitters. They did what they could do, and I did what I could do.”
Hagan befuddled the ECU hitters all evening with good command of his fastball balancing the heater with a very effective change up.
“Lately Iʼve been working the change-ups in a lot more and getting a lot more comfortable with that pitch,” said Hagan. “At the beginning of the year I was just working fastball/slider and fastball/curveball, but lately Iʼve been really getting comfortable with the feel for that pitch (slider) and that was a huge key to my success today. Instead of having that same breaking pitch come in on right-handers, now I have that pitch that dives away from them and gets them to roll over.”
The Pirates had their chances but were frustrated by Hagan, stranding six runners in scoring position. ECU Head Coach Billy Godwin noted the difficulty in winning when you don’t move base runners along.
“You look at the box score, you get 10 hits and leave 12 on, and that doesn’t bode well for success,” acknowledged Goodwin. “Odds are if you get enough guys on youʼre going to score runs. It doesnʼt take a baseball guru to know that. I have a lot of confidence in my guys, but we have to score runs. Itʼs a team game and weʼve gotten it done with our backs against the wall a few times this year. At no point in my mind did I think we were going to lose that game, even in the final inning.”
St. John’s would get the only run they needed in the top of the third. Paul Karmas drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. He came around to score on Brennan’s RBI single up the middle. The Red Storm added a run in the top of the fourth when Jeremy Baltz scored on Kevin Grove’s bases loaded sacrifice fly.
“Sean Hagan threw a great game, pitched in and out, changed speeds,” said St. Johnʼs Assistant Coach Mike Hampton. “Offense was just the way it has been all year – did just enough.”
Up Next: Navy will face East Carolina Saturday at 1:00 PM in the Regionals first elimination game. The Mids will go with Sam Long (5-5, 4.34 ERA) on the bump while East Carolina is expected to start Maness, Seth (9-3, 1.88 ERA). Virginia will face-off against St. Johns and go with All-American Danny Hultzen (10-3, 1.59 ERA). The Red Strom will counter with Kyle Hansen (8-6, 2.70 ERA). First pitch is slated for 6:00 PM.