It’s hard to win ACC baseball games. It’s nearly impossible to win ACC baseball games when making self-inflicted mistakes.
On Friday, the Virginia baseball team shut out Miami through five innings despite issuing seven walks and the Hurricanes loading the bases in three of the first four innings.
The Cavaliers’ Houdini-esque escapes ended in the sixth.
The Hurricanes took advantage of three walks and a wild pitch in a five-run sixth inning, then added three more runs in the eighth inning to pull out an 8-6 win at Disharoon Park.
“We pitched ourselves out of a lot of jams early in the game, and what I told the team is, ‘At some point that catches up with you,’” head coach Brian O’Connor said. “And it did.”
Miami consistently threatened the Cavaliers and used two big innings to win the series opener. Virginia is now 0-5 in ACC series openers this spring.
Early in the game, Virginia (9-12, 3-10 ACC) fought out of bases-loaded jams. Starting pitcher Griff McGarry tossed three wild pitches and walked five in just two innings of work. UVa’s junior right-hander loaded the bases in both innings, but escaped each jam without allowing a run.
RBI doubles from senior Christian Hlinka and sophomore Max Cotier gave UVa a 2-0 lead after two frames.
Left-handed sophomore Nate Savino relieved McGarry in the third inning.
“Five walks is kind of my limit,” O’Connor said of pulling McGarry.
Savino cruised through the third and fifth innings and somehow escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the fourth. A rare 5-2 double play helped Savino exit the fourth without allowing a run.
Finally, in the sixth inning, Miami put runs on the board.
Ten batters came to the plate as the Hurricanes (10-7, 6-6 ACC) ripped a home run off Savino and then beat up on reliever Zach Messinger. The junior right hander recorded just two outs, allowing two hits, two runs and walking two. He also fired a wild pitch. Two additional runs allowed with Messinger on the hill were charged to Savino, who left with a pair of runners on base.
Virginia answered with a wild sequence in the seventh inning. With two outs and the bases empty, freshman designated hitter Kyle Teel ripped a home run over the right field fence. Junior third baseman Zack Gelof came up next, and he blasted a ball into center field.
The ball hung up in the evening sun, and junior center fielder Tony Jenkins lost the ball. He nearly tracked it down, but instead stumbled and missed the ball. He failed to retrieve it, as right fielder Christian Del Castillo came over to throw it in. By the time the ball neared the infield, Gelof rounded third and beat the throw home for an inside-the-park home run, cutting the deficit to one run.
“Was happy with that at-bat, and I thought it gave us life at the moment,” Gelof said.
UVa’s momentum was short-lived.
Miami added three runs in the eighth inning to take an 8-4 lead. UVa senior Devin Ortiz answered with a solo home run in the bottom of the frame, but UVa trailed by three entering the final inning.
The Cavaliers fought hard late, scoring in the ninth on an RBI single from senior left fielder Brendan Rivoli. UVa even brought the potential game-winning run to the plate, but the Cavaliers struck out three consecutive times with runners on first and second.
Despite the loss, UVa tallied 13 hits and scored six runs.
“Just walking through the locker room today after the game, everybody — aside from the loss — we were like, ‘Hey, that was a great job at the plate today,’” Hlinka said.
He’s hopeful the Cavaliers can build off the offensive showing Saturday.
Senior left-hander Andrew Abbott will take the mound for UVa on Saturday. First pitch for the second game of the series is scheduled for 1 p.m.
“We’re not gonna go away,” O’Connor said. “We’re gonna keep grinding and finding a way.”