By: Greg Waters
Charlottesville, VA.- The Navy Midshipmen were the first to depart falling in the first elimination game of the Regional on Saturday. East Carolina kept in season alive with the 6-1 win over Navy and will face St. John’s in the second elimination game Sunday at 1:00 PM. The Cavaliers improve to 2-0 in the Regional based on back-to-back solid pitching performances by Will Roberts and Danny Hultzen. In the first two games of the tournament the Hoos have fanned 27 of the 63 batters they’ve faced.
#2 East Carolina 6 #4 Navy 1
Seth Maness tossed six innings of scoreless baseball surrendering just three hits, two walks and striking out four as East Carolina stayed alive in NCAA Regional plain in Charlottesville, VA.
I am very proud of the way Seth [Maness] pitched today,” said ECU Head Coach Billy Godwin. “In [facing)] elimination, your backs are against the wall. When it’s your last game, I can tell you this as a head coach – there is no better guy you want on the mound than this guy.”
East Carolina took and early 1-0 lead in the second on shortstop Jack Reinheimer’s RBI single plating Zach Wright. In the top of the third the Pirates added to their lead when Corey Thompson drew a one-out walk, stole second and advanced to third on a ground out by Trent Whitehead. Thompson scored to make it 2-0 when Chase McDonald’s grounder was mishandled by Navy second baseman Nick Driscoll.
Navy had its chances.
In the first the Mids had runners on first and second with two outs and left them stranded. In the fourth Navy was unable to capitalize with runners at the corners and no one out. Again in the sixth, down by only two the Midshipmen got a leadoff single and a hit-by-pitch but the rally was stifled by a line-out double play.
The Pirates turned their 43rd and 44th double play of the season to end the threat in the fourth and thwart the Navy chance in the sixth.
For the second day in a row at the Charlottesville Regional Navy got a fine effort from its starting pitching but both starts were wasted as neither starter got any run support from the office. Saturday it was Sam Long (5-6) who provided a quality start but was the hard luck loser going six innings and yielding just two earned runs. Long struck out two but walked five which proved to be a killer for Navy.
In all Navy walked eight Pirate batters and five of the six runs ECU reached base via walk.
Long was pleased with his performance but admitted the base-on-balls hurt.
“I got stronger as the game went along, but the plays behind me were unbelievable…As far as my walk to strikeout ratio, I felt it could have been better, but I just kept trying to get strong and find a groove out there and throw pitches that would help me be successful and get the outs that I needed.”
The Pirates put the game out of reach in the top of the seventh on Chase McDonald’s fourth home run of the season and first career grand slam over Davenport’s right field to push the Pirate lead to six.
Navy finally scratched in the ninth. Jeff Bland reached on an error and advanced to third on a single by Nick Driscoll. Bland scored the only run of the weekend for the Midshipmen on a RBI groundout by Andrew Hahn.
ECU will face St John’s Sunday at 1:00 PM in an elimination game.
“If you look at the tournament bracket, we have three games to win. But if you talk to our team, we have a 1 p.m. game we have to win. That’s just what it is. Everybody is available. I said that going into today. We’ll throw Kevin Brandt tomorrow – I’ll go ahead and get that out there. I did tell Kevin today he would be available if needed. I think any coach in the country, when they get in this situation, is prepared to use whoever, whenever, because you have to win to move on.”
#1 Virginia 10 #3 St. John’s 2
The Virginia Cavaliers (51-9) continued their two-out, two-strike offensive excellence from the opening bell jumping on St. John’s ace Kyle Hansen (8-7) for two-runs in the first en route to an 8-1 win. The Cavaliers used a 12 hit barrage to chase the Red Storm starter and move into the title round of the Charlottesville Regional.
Color St John’s skipper Ed Blankmeyer impressed.
“Danny Hultzen is a some special talent: dominant, deceptive, very tough to hit at 6:00 PM with the shadow coming out. This kid has a really good feel on how to pitch. The kids that are really good just have that feel and he has it. Even with the bat he anticipates things, he’s on some pitches. I’d like to have him on my club, that’s for sure.”
ACC Pitcher of the Year Danny Hultzen went seven innings setting down 11 Red Storm hitters via the strikeout and walking just one. First-Team All Big East pitcher Kyle Hansen struggle through 4.1 innings giving up six runs on seven hits. Hansen, averaging over a strikeout per inning managed to fan just one Cavalier hitter while walking two.
Virginia drew first blood as John Barr drew a one-out walk and stole second to get into scoring position. Steven Proscia followed and with two out took Hansen’s 2-2 offering deep into the right field stands to stake the Hoos to a 2-0 lead. Proscia’s blast was only the second home run Hansen has allowed in 103.1 innings this season.
The Cavaliers extended their lead in the fourth. Steven Proscia led off the frame with a double and reached third on Hultzen’s ground out to first base. Virginia went back to the two-out well again as David Coleman plated Proscia with an RBI single and stole second to move into scoring position for Jared King who promptly laced a single through the left side of the infield to give Virginia a 4-0 lead.
Virginia continued the onslaught in the fifth as Chris Taylor scored on Proscia bad hope single over the head of St. John’s shortstop Joe Panik. John Hicks came around to score on Hultzen’s RBI single and Coleman recorded his second RBI of the game when he lined a single right back up-the-middle to bring home Proscia.
The Cavaliers added two more runs in top of the ninth on Coleman 2-RBI single for the final 10-2 margin. Coleman said that with the way his guys were throwing on the mound, the offense wanted to deliver.
Joe Panik paced the Red Storm with two hits, a run scored and an RBI.
“On a night like tonight when youʼve got pitchers throwing great stuff, you want to do your best to contribute in some way,” he said. “I think that throughout the lineup tonight, we did that. We had clutch hits and we had a lot of production on our offense to back up Hultzen and Whit [Mayberry].”
The Hoos will await the winner of the ECU-St John’s rematch Sunday evening at 6:00 PM. Tyler Wilson will go for Virginia.
“We definitely want to wrap it up [Sunday] said Proscia. “We have a lot of confidence; we have a lot of momentum going into tomorrow. We have a great starting pitcher on the mound tomorrow (Tyler Wilson) and we’ve got a fresh bullpen. Right now we have a lot of confidence in our guys.”
ECU will face St. John’s in and elimination game Sunday. Coach Blankmeyer was still debating his starter for the 1:00 PM start.
“It’s either going to be (Kevin) Kilpatrick or (Brendan) Lobban. We don’t quite have the depth we had last year. We’ve been struggling with this all year – if you saw the last inning, the two guys (Anthony Cervone and Jake Woodward) that came in haven’t had a lot of innings for us. They’re just not ready for this but the game was in the bag and they got a new experience.”