By: Greg Waters
The Virginia Cavaliers improved to 53-9 on the season winning the opening contest of the Charlottesville Super Regional 6-0 over the UC Irvine (42-17) Anteaters. The shutout was UVa’s 16 of the year and Virginia’s third consecutive post season win over the Anteaters in NCAA play.
As has been the case most of the post season, Virginia got solid play from its pitchers, offense and defense to secure the win.
“That was a really, really good team playing really, really well and it wasn’t much of a contest. They were as advertised…” said Irvine skipper Mike Gillespie.
Jared King led the Virginia offensive effort going 3-for-4 including a three-run bomb in the sixth inning.
It wasn’t vintage Danny Hultzen who worked 5.1 innings, hitting a batter and issuing three walks but the second overall pick in the 2011 MLB draft improved to 12-3 on the season. Despite some uncharacteristic control problems, the All-American hurler did not surrender a run.
“It was just one of those days I guess, “explained Hultzen. “I didn’t have it. It’s my job to just give the chance to win. It’s not necessarily my job to throw a complete game shutout or a no-hitter or anything like that. It’s my job to put our team in position to win. With our defense and the way our offense is swinging the bat, luckily we were able to do that.”
UCI starter Matt Summers (11-3) went six complete giving up five runs on nine hits, striking out three and walking one. Anteater skipper Mike Gillespie used four different pitchers to close out the game.
Both clubs failed to capitalize on scoring chances in the opening frame. The Anteaters leadoff man D. J. Crumlich was hit-by-a-pitch and Dean Madigan reached with a walk. Both runners advanced on a sacrifice bunt bringing UCI’s big RBI man Drew Hillman to the plate. But Hillman doubled into the most unique of doubles plays, the 5-3-4-2, run-down, twin-killing.
Chris Taylor led off the inning with a single and stole second to move into scoring position with no outs. John Barr grounded out advancing Taylor to third. Catcher John Hicks hit a slow ground ball to third that Brian Hernandez fielded and gunned down Taylor at home.
In the third, Crumlich hit a frozen rope to right center and Madigan again reached on Hultzen’s third free pass of the game. And again, Hultzen worked out of the jam with a 4-6-3 inning ending double-play.
Virginia’s Keith Werman lead off his teams half of the frame with a lead-off walk and Taylor follow with a single just under the glove of UCI second baseman Tommy Reyes. John Barr’s sacrifice bunt moved Werman and Taylor up 90 feet. John Hicks squeezed a knubber RBI single down the third base line but Hernandez had no play at Werman scored the first run of the game. Hultzen followed with a line shot to right field to drive in his 35 RBI of the season plating Taylor from third giving the Cavaliers the 2-0 edge.
Following a 1:24 rain delay in the fourth, Hultzen seemed to settle down retiring the first five batters he faced following the delay. Again in the sixth UCI got two runners on as Hernandez reached on a strike-out wild pitch followed by Drew Hillman’s single into right field. That was all for Hultzen who gave way to Winiarski. Though the pitcher was different, the result was the same as the Cavaliers executed their third inning-ending double play of the game to shut down the threat.
UVa shortstop Chris Taylor says the credit for Virginia defensive proficiency goes to the coaching staff.
“I think you have to give a lot of credit to the coaches because they really stress defensive fundamentals, just playing catch-and-throw, they make sure we’re working hard in practice, during in-and-out or batting practice they make sure we take every fly ball or ground ball and practice like it’s a game situation,” said Taylor
Kenny Swab delivered a one-out single in Virginia’s half of the frame advancing to third on David Coleman’s gapper to left center. That brought up King who blasted Summers 1-0 offering over the evergreens in left field for the 5-0 lead. The King home run was only the second Summers’ had allowed in 115 innings this season.
“I was just looking for something to drive; something up in the zone and hopefully get a fly ball,” said King. “I knew if it was fair, I thought it would be over the fence. I was just worried about it hooking foul.”
The Cavaliers added some insurance in the seventh on Swab’s two-hopper under the shortstops glove scoring Hicks.
“I thought we played a very good fundamental baseball game today; that’s sort of what we’ve been consumed with the last couple of weeks,” said Cavalier head coach Brian O’Connor. “Pitching well, playing good defense and executing from an offensive standpoint, and we did that today against a very good club in Irvine.”
The two clubs return to action Sunday at 1:00 PM eastern time. UCI is expected to start Matt Whitehouse (4-0, 2.14 ERA) while Virginia will go with Tyler Wilson (8-0, 2.34 ERA).