Neither natural elements nor any team in its path has so far been able to stop the UVA baseball team, as it defeated Ole Miss (48-21) 4-1 Saturday—the second win over the Rebels in a week—to earn its first ever bid to the championship of the College World Series in Omaha. The win pushes the Cavaliers’ record to 3-0 in this year’s College World Series, making UVA (52-14) the only undefeated team of the tournament.
The game scheduled for Friday night was delayed by rain and lightning in the top of the second inning and was ultimately postponed until Saturday afternoon, but the Cavaliers prevailed, this time dispatching their opponents without a down-to-the-wire finish.
The Cavaliers have been stout in close games this season. They are 27-9 in games decided by three runs or fewer—including 3-0 in the College World Series—and are tied for a nation-leading 16 wins in games decided by a single run. The Cavaliers have the second-lowest team ERA in the nation and have only allowed two runs and 16 hits in 33 innings of work during the College World Series.
The Cavaliers’ pitching trio of sophomore Josh Sborz, senior Artie Lewicki, and junior power-pitcher Nick Howard combined to throw nine strong innings in which they combined to strike out seven, only allow six hits, and surrender the lone Rebel run of the game, an unearned one. Howard recorded his 20th save of the season, breaking the ACC single-season saves record.
With the bases loaded in the top of the fourth, sophomore catcher Robbie Coman singled to right-center field to drive home two runs and put the Cavaliers in a lead that they never relinquished. The Cavaliers scored one more run later in the fourth and a fourth run in the seventh.
During a post-game press conference, Cavaliers coach Brian O’Connor praised his team’s fortitude in recent high-stakes games. “Our team, these last three weeks, has played with an incredible amount of poise,” he said. “I really believe that, at championship time, it takes poise and patience to prevail.”
The 52-win season marks the second-most in program history for Virginia. Virginia athletics in total have won 20 national titles, but not one has come in baseball. This year’s team looks poised to change that trend.
Led by consistent and superb pitching, the favored Cavaliers have looked great so far in the program’s third-ever trip to the round-of-eight College World Series. The Hoos will take on Vanderbilt (49-20) in the best-of-three championship round beginning Monday night at 8pm. Game two will take place Tuesday at 8pm, and game three, if necessary, will take place Wednesday, also at 8pm.