No. 7 Virginia Steamrolls Army 15-1 to Open NCAA Baseball Tournament
By Matt Newton,2023-06-03
Despite first pitch being at noon on a Friday, the largest crowd for a postseason game in the history of the UVA baseball program packed into Disharoon Park to see the Cavaliers play their first NCAA Tournament home game since 2016. That crowd of 5,487 fans was treated to a dominant performance from No. 7 seed Virginia, who scored 10 runs in the first two innings, got five perfect innings from starter Brian Edgington, and rolled to a 15-1 victory over Army on Friday afternoon to open the Charlottesville Regional of the NCAA Baseball Tournament.
When asked what he thought of UVA's start to the game, head coach Brian O'Connor said "as perfect as it could be. I mean, Edge [Brian Edgington] went through six hitters and was pitching great and we jumped them off offensively and capitalized on every opportunity we had."
It's difficult to argue with O'Connor's assessment, as Virginia put up six runs in the first inning and four runs in the second inning. After Edgington breezed through the top of the first with a couple of strikeouts, UVA jumped all over Army starter Robbie Buecker. Griff O'Ferrall turned on the first pitch he saw for a leadoff single and Jake Gelof joined him on base with a first-pitch single. Kyle Teel scored O'Ferrall with a hard-hit grounder through the right side and then a wild pitch brought in Gelof. Ethan Anderson then hammered a two-run home run deep into the balcony in right field to make it 4-0.
Casey Saucke kept the inning going with a single and then he scored on a bouncing double down the left field line from Henry Godbout. As he did to start the game, Griff O'Ferrall swung at the first pitch and singled to center field, scoring Godbout for UVA's sixth run of the first inning.
That the Cavaliers produced so well against Robbie Buecker was even more impressive considering he had pitched extremely well against top competition this season, including giving up just one run in five innings against Arkansas, the No. 3 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
"I felt like we were going to be in for one today knowing the character of their team, the quality of their team, but our offensive approach in that first inning and really the entire game was very mature and very professional," said Brian O'Connor. "I thought our approach against their starter was as good as I've seen us have in my time against a opening starter in a regional."
The long first inning did nothing to slow down Brian Edgington, who made quick work of the Army batters in the top of the second, needing just seven pitches to retire the side in order. UVA went right back to work in the bottom of the second, as Army reliever Tyler Prichard walked the first two batters of the inning. Shortstop Kevin Dubrule botched a double-play ball, allowing one run to score, and then Saucke delivered an RBI single. A fielder's choice grounder by Anthony Stephan scored Anderson and then another error by Dubrule allowed Godbout to score. Although the Cavaliers recorded just one hit in the frame, they scored four runs on three walks and three Army errors.
Virginia tacked on another run in the bottom of the fourth as Stephan hit a blooper into shallow center and legged out a one-out double before coming around to score on an RBI single by Godbout, making it 11-0.
That was plenty of run support for Edgington, who delivered one of the finest performances of his career. Edgington retired each of the 15 batters he faced, maintaining a perfect game through five innings and throwing just 56 pitches in the process, with 42 of those pitches being strikes.
Brian O'Connor replaced Edgington to start the sixth inning and explained after the game that the decision to take Edgington out of the game when he had a perfect game going was to preserve the option of using Edgington again sometime this weekend and to give other pitchers in the bullpen a chance to to see the mound in a NCAA Tournament game that was already well in control.
Freshman righty Cullen McKay was first out of the bullpen for the Cavaliers. He gave up back-to-back walks on four pitches to spoil the perfect game, but he worked around those baserunners to preserve the no-hitter through the sixth inning. UVA scored another run in the bottom of the sixth as Godbout put himself in scoring position with a double down the left field line and scored on a single by O'Ferrall.
Both the no-hitter and the shutout came to an end in the top of the seventh as Braden Golinski hit a soft blooper into left field for a single and an error by Jake Gelof allowed the Black Knights to score their first and only run of the game.
The Cavaliers immediately answered back with a couple of runs thanks to back-to-back-to-back doubles from Ethan Anderson, Casey Saucke, and pinch hitter Chris Baker to extend their lead to 14-1. Chase Hungate came on and worked a 1-2-3 eighth inning and Virginia added one last run in the bottom of the eighth as Ethan Anderson hit a sacrifice fly to score Tommy Courtney. Jack O'Connor gave up a single and a walk in the ninth, but retired the side without surrendering any runs to secure Virginia's 15-1 win.
Ethan Anderson led the way offensively for UVA, going 2 for 4 with three RBI and three runs scored. Nine different Cavaliers recorded a hit in the game and Griff O'Ferrall, Casey Saucke, and Henry Godbout had three hits apiece. The 15 runs are Virginia's most scored in a NCAA Tournament game since 2016.
After getting off to a strong start to begin the NCAA Tournament, Virginia (46-12) will look to seize control of the Charlottesville Regional on Saturday at 6pm against East Carolina.
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