After a historic spring for the top-seeded UVA baseball program, the Cavaliers pulled out a 2-1 victory over Ole Miss Sunday night in the opening round of the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha.
Junior first baseman Mike Papi drove in the game-winning run with a clutch double on a full count with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. Despite stranding runners in scoring position on his first two at-bats, when it mattered most with a runner on second in a tied ballgame, Papi rocked a fastball to the fence to vault the Hoos over the Rebels.
“I knew when I got it, I got it pretty good,” Papi said in a postgame press conference. “I was just hoping and praying it was going to fall out there somewhere.” Papi’s double marked the first walk-off since 2011, when South Carolina beat Virginia on their way to the College World Series title.
Papi was recently selected 38th overall in the Major League Baseball draft by the Cleveland Indians and had been batting .480 in the College World Series entering Sunday’s contest.
Virginia (50-14), ranked No. 3 overall entering the tournament, took an early 1-0 lead when catcher Nate Irving scored on a no-out double play. Left-handed sophomore Nathan Kirby pitched seven strong innings but allowed Ole Miss’ lone run in the eighth, despite allowing just one hit all night when pinch-runner Cameron Dishorn scored on a groundout. Kirby recorded four strikeouts and three walks in his outing. Senior Artie Lewicki picked up the win in two scoreless innings of relief.
Ole Miss (46-20) starter Chris Ellis pitched six innings, allowing one run on six hits, walking four, and striking out one. Senior Aaron Greenwood took the loss in 1.2 innings, allowing one run on one hit, walking one and striking out two.
“What a college baseball game,” Virginia head coach Brian O’Connor said at the press conference. “Ole Miss has a terrific ball club. I was just really proud of our club in all areas. I thought our pitching was outstanding. I thought Nathan Kirby was tremendous tonight. Certainly, in the eighth inning, he probably wants those walks back, but he did a great job of getting us to the eighth inning. Artie Lewicki came in and was really good and gave us a chance to win.”
The format of the College World Series is double-elimination until the best-of-three championship round, so Ole Miss is still alive to play Texas Tech on Tuesday at 3pm despite the opening-round loss. Virginia advances to play fellow top-seed TCU on Tuesday at 8pm.
Although Virginia left 11 runners stranded during the game, they pulled out their 50th win of the season, marking the fourth time in the program’s history—and the fourth time in the past five years—the Cavaliers have won at least 50 games in a single season.