IRVINE, Calif. The Virginia baseball team earned its first-ever NCAA Regional championship as the seventh-ranked Cavaliers defeated No. 1 UC Irvine, 4-1, Sunday night in the championship game of the 2009 NCAA Irvine Regional at Anteater Ballpark in Irvine, Calif. With their second win over the Anteaters, the No. 6 national seed, in as many nights, the second-seeded Cavaliers earn a berth in the NCAA Super Regionals next weekend.
Virginia (46-12-1) will play the champion of the Oxford Regional next weekend in a best-of-three series. Ole Miss and Western Kentucky will play the second championship game of that regional at 7 p.m. Monday. The site of the Super Regional will be announced at 11 p.m. ET Monday following the conclusion of regional play.
UC Irvine, the No. 1 seed in the regional, finishes its season with a 45-15 record.
In the regional, Virginia was strong in all phases of the game. The pitching staff dominated, allowing just two earned runs and 20 hits in 27 innings. The defense was flawless and did not commit an error punctuated by two sensational defensive plays in the ninth inning Sunday. The Cavaliers did not trail at any point in their three regional games as they pushed their overall winning streak to eight.
Andrew Carraway (Sr., Marietta, Ga.) put up UVa’s third straight strong starting pitching performance in the regional. Carraway (7-1) worked seven innings, giving up just one earned run, four hits and one walk while fanning three. Kevin Arico (So., Flemington, N.J.) retired the final six batters in order to pick up his 11th save of the season.
Franco Valdes (Jr., Miami, Fla.) went 2-for-4 with a pair of run scoring hits (double, triple). He went 5-for-11 in the regional and was named the Irvine Regional Most Outstanding Player. He was joined on the All-Regional Team by third baseman Steven Proscia (Fr., Suffern, N.Y.), outfielder Jarrett Parker (So., Stafford, Va.), DH Phil Gosselin (So., West Chester, Pa.) and pitcher Danny Hultzen (Fr., Bethesda, Md.).
Parker was 3-for-5 Sunday and now has 90 hits this year third most in UVa single-season history. He had a key ninth-inning triple to add a key insurance run to the Virginia lead.
UC Irvine reliever Kyle Necke (1-4) took the loss after pitching four innings while giving up two earned runs, two hits and two walks while striking out three. He pitched four scoreless innings before giving up a pair of runs in the ninth inning. Noel Avison started for UC Irvine and went 4.1 innings, allowing one earned run, six hits and one walk while striking out two.
The teams played 3.2 scoreless innings before Virginia snapped the deadlock with a two-out rally in the fourth. John Hicks (Fr., Sandy Hook, Va.) coaxed a walk and scored all the way from first when Valdes hit a 1-2 pitch to left field. The high-arching ball dropped just inside the foul line for a double, and Hicks slid in to just beat the throw and give UVa a 1-0 lead.
UC Irvine broke a string a 12 straight scoreless innings against UVa with a run in its half of the fourth. With one out, Casey Stevenson singled to left-center. He advanced to second on a groundout by Ronnie Shaeffer and scored on a single to right by Jeff Cusick.
Virginia took the lead for good with a sixth-inning run. Hultzen led off with a single and moved to second on a groundout by Hicks. Valdes then rocketed a ball down the right-field line and into the corner for a triple to score Hicks. It was Valdes’ first triple of 2009 and just his second career three-bagger.
The Anteaters had a golden opportunity to tie or take the lead in their half of the sixth. Ben Orloff bunted his way on to lead off and moved up on a groundout. After Stevenson was hit by a pitch, the two runners combined on a double steal. Carraway buckled down to strike out Shaeffer looking and then forced Cusick to ground out to Tyler Cannon (Jr., Pigeon Forge, Tenn.) to end the threat.
Carraway again evaded a UCI scoring opportunity in the seventh inning. Francis Larson led off with a single but was erased when Dillon Bell bunted into a force play. Bell, moving on the pitch, advanced on a groundout to Carraway by Jordan Fox. UVa head coach Brian O’Connor, after a visit to the mound, elected to leave Carraway in the game and was rewarded when the senior induced pinch-hitter Ryan Fisher to weakly pop out to Carraway.
Virginia got a bit of breathing room after adding a pair of insurance runs in the ninth inning. Keith Werman (Fr., Vienna, Va.) drew a one-out walk against Necke. UCI brought on All-America closer Eric Pettis, who was greeted by Parker with a line-drive triple just inside the first-base line which rolled into the corner. The triple was Parker’s seventh this season tying the UVa single-season record. Cannon then launched a triple to left-center to score Parker and give the Cavaliers a 4-1 lead.