No. 8 Virginia Walks Off Florida State 3-2 in Ten-Inning Thriller
By Matt Newton,2023-03-24
Chris Baker delivered the walk-off game-winner in the bottom of the 10th to give the Cavaliers the game 1 win over the Seminoles
Brian O'Connor said it best after the game.
"Isn't college baseball great? What a great ball game by both teams."
From start to finish, this game had a little bit of everything. UVA lost its starting pitcher to a scary injury in the first inning, surrendered eight walks as a pitching staff, squandered a bases loaded with no outs opportunity in the eighth, and trailed by a run in the bottom of the ninth. All of those signs seemed to be pointing towards a frustrating loss for the Cavaliers to open their first home ACC series of the season.
Instead, in the words of Brian O'Connor, Virginia "found a way."
In the end, it was the graduate walk-on Chris Baker who delivered the walk-off game-winner, poking a ball up the middle and into center field, scoring Ethan Anderson from second base as No. 8 Virginia took game 1 from Florida State 3-2 in a ten-inning thriller on Friday afternoon at Disharoon Park.
To say that the first inning was chaotic would be putting it lightly. Virginia starter Nick Parker gave up a walk and a single to start the game and then had a hard line drive strike him in the head. Parker was down on the ground for a few minutes before finally managing to exit the field on his own power. Brian O'Connor did not have an update on Parker after the game, but said that he had been taken to be evaluated by medical personnel.
That put the Cavaliers in a precarious position early on as they lost their starting pitcher after just three batters to start the opening game of an ACC series. VCU transfer Chase Hungate entered the game and allowed one run on a groundout by Ben Barrett, but managed to get a key strikeout to end the inning with no further damage.
In the bottom half of the inning, Griff O'Ferrall hit a double down the left field line on the second pitch he saw and then Ethan O'Donnell drew a walk, giving the Cavaliers a golden opportunity for a quick answer. Instead, Florida State starter Jackson Baumeister managed to record three-straight strikeouts against the meat of UVA's lineup, as Jake Gelof, Kyle Teel, and Ethan Anderson each struck out swinging to end the inning.
That first inning would end up being a microcosm of Virginia's offensive struggles in the entire game, as the Cavaliers frequently had runners in scoring position but failed to capitalize.
Meanwhile, Chase Hungate fulfilled the role of impromptu starter brilliantly for UVA, pitching five innings and giving up zero earned runs on just two hits and striking out five batters. Hungate was lifted in the top of the sixth and exited to a much-deserved ovation from the crowd at Disharoon Park.
Hungate's counterpart Baumeister was even better on the mound for the Seminoles, settling in extremely well after struggling early. Baumeister held the high-octane UVA offense off the board through five innings, but Florida State kept him in the ball game just a little bit too long. In the top of the sixth, Ethan O'Donnell hit a leadoff double into right center field and then Jake Gelof quickly followed that up with a base hit into right field to score O'Donnell and tie the game at 1-1.
Both teams had chances to take the lead shortly after that, as UVA had runners on first and second, but Griff O'Ferrall's hard hit ball went right to the shortstop Carrion, who got the force out at second base to end the seventh inning. In the top of the eighth, Florida State loaded the bases on two walks and a single that was only kept a single thanks to a diving effort from Jake Gelof to keep Jaime Ferrer's line drive in the infield. With the bases loaded and the game tied at 1-1, the moment wasn't too big for freshman Evan Blanco, who calmly struck out Cam Smith swinging to end the inning.
Virginia looked to be well on its way to taking the lead in the bottom of the eighth as Ethan O'Donnell and Jake Gelof drew walks and Kyle Teel singled to right field to load the bases with no outs. Instead, Florida State brought in Andrew Armstrong, who proceeded to strikeout Ethan Anderson on three pitches and then got Casey Saucke to ground into a colossal inning-ending double play.
Missing that opportunity to take the lead appeared to cost Virginia the game as Florida State then scored a run in the top of the ninth. Nander De Sedas drew a walk and then Treyton Rank hit a double to give FSU runners on second and third with one out. UVA brought in Jay Woolfolk, who got McGwire Holbrook to hit a chopper to third base, but Jake Gelof couldn't handle it cleanly, allowing De Sedas to score to give the Seminoles the lead.
Florida State inserted closer Conner Whittaker, who quickly got Colin Tuft and Henry Godbout out and the Cavaliers were suddenly down to their final out. Harrison Didawick kept UVA alive with a two-out walk and then Griff O'Ferrall delivered a two-strike base hit to right field. Florida State committed a throwing error getting the ball back to the infield, allowing Didawick to advance to third. This time, Virginia didn't need to do anything to capitalize on the opportunity, as Whittaker threw a wild pitch that got away from Florida State catcher McGwire Holbrook and Didawick raced home to tie things up and send the game to extra innings.
After giving up an unearned run in the top of the ninth, Jay Woolfolk struck out the next two batters to end that inning and he stayed on the mound in the tenth. Woolfolk walked the first batter but then recorded three-straight outs to send it to the bottom of the tenth.
Kyle Teel hit a one-out single into left field, but then got out at second as Ethan Anderson grounded into a fielder's choice. Casey Saucke delivered a two-out single to advance Anderson to second. UVA had Chris Baker pinch hit for Colin Tuft with an opportunity to win the game. Baker played four years at Washington College before enrolling at UVA for graduate school and walking on to the Virginia baseball team. In just his second-ever at-bat in an ACC game, Baker delivered the walk-off game-winner, hitting a ball up the middle that found its way under the glove of Florida State shortstop Jordan Carrion and into center field, allowing Anderson to score from second base to win the game. The play was officially scored as an error on Carrion, but it was very close and the Cavaliers certainly didn't care about any of that as they mobbed Baker at first base.
Some unlikely heroes stepped up for Virginia on Friday, with the transfer Chase Hungate entering the game in the first and pitching five innings with zero earned runs and the walk-on Chris Baker winning the game in the bottom of the tenth. Jay Woolfolk was credited with his second win of the season.
The dramatic victory protects UVA's perfect home record this season as the Cavaliers improve to 14-0 within the friendly confines of Disharoon Park. Now 20-2 overall and 5-2 in ACC play, Virginia will be back at the Dish on Saturday at 1pm for game 2, looking to clinch the series victory against Florida State.
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