June 5, 2017
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FORT WORTH, Texas — For Virginia, the goal now is to wake up Tuesday morning with more baseball to play this season. For that to happen, the Cavaliers will have to win twice Monday at Lupton Stadium: first against Dallas Baptist and then against host TCU.
That’s assuming, of course, that the weather cooperates, which has rarely been the case during this NCAA regional. But second-seeded Virginia (43-15) is scheduled to meet third-seeded Dallas Baptist (41-20) in an elimination game at 3 p.m. Eastern. The winner will meet top-seeded TCU (44-16) at 8 p.m. Eastern.
A victory in that game would send the Horned Frogs, who are the seeded No. 6 overall in the NCAA tournament, to a super regional. A loss would force a winner-take-all rematch Tuesday at Lupton Stadium.
UVA’s immediate focus is Dallas Baptist, head coach Brian O’Connor said early Monday, “but you’re here to win, and you’ve got to look at what it takes to win the whole thing, and there’s no consolation prizes.”
The regional was supposed to start on Friday, but thunderstorms washed out the two games scheduled for that day. When the field was at last deemed suitable for playing, Virginia defeated Dallas Baptist 6-3 on Saturday night, and TCU beat fourth-seeded Central Connecticut State 9-6.
That set up a much-anticipated showdown between UVA and TCU, programs that have made frequent trips to the College World Series over the past decade. They were scheduled to meet Sunday at 5 p.m. Eastern, but another round of thunder, lightning and torrential rain derailed the proceedings again.
The game finally started at 10:04 p.m. Eastern, and little went right for the Wahoos over the next three hours and 28 minutes. Sophomore right-hander Jared Janczak, who entered the game with a 1.99 earned-run average, shut down Virginia, and TCU won 5-1.
The Cavaliers’ offense ranks among the nation’s most dangerous, and if “you don’t make pitches to those guys, it can be a long night, really quick,” TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle said.
Janczak made the pitches.
“He came out and he really brought it tonight,” said UVA sophomore Jake McCarthy, who went 1 for 4. “Any time you can mix and match with multiple pitches, to left-handed and right-handed hitters, it’s going to be tough.”
In eight innings, Janczak struck out six, gave up six hits and walked one. UVA slugger Pavin Smith, who had fanned only nine times all season, struck out twice against Janczak.
The only Cavalier with more than one hit was sophomore Andy Weber (2 for 3), who bats ninth in the lineup.
“TCU’s starter was tremendous,” O’Connor said. “He just mixes and matches his pitches so well … Obviously, he’s a tremendous competitor, and he just went out there and took control of the game from the start.”
Virginia’s starter, meanwhile, lasted only 2.2 innings. It didn’t help Daniel Lynch that the Cavaliers’ defense committed two errors behind him, but the sophomore left-hander struggled almost from the start. And so with TCU leading 4-0 in the third, O’Connor turned to senior right-hander Alec Bettinger.
“I thought [the Frogs] did a nice job, after the first time through the lineup, of making a nice adjustment to what Daniel Lynch was doing to them,” O’Connor said. “To their credit, they were getting really good two-strike swings, and he just had a tough time putting them away.”
Bettinger pitched brilliantly and kept TCU from extending its lead. He retired the first 13 batters he faced, a streak that finally ended when he walked Austen Wade in the eighth.
Before giving way to junior left-hander Bennett Sousa in the ninth, Bettinger struck out four and allowed only one hit in 5.1 innings. He departed to a warm ovation from the TCU fans.
He could saved Bettinger for later in the regional, O’Connor acknowledged, but “I felt like we were one swing away from being right back in the ball game. Unfortunately, we just didn’t get that swing.
“I decided to go for it and leave Alec out there, and certainly I know that he pitched over 90 pitches, so that won’t make him available at all [Monday or Tuesday].
“I had so much confidence in our offensive ball club that we could scratch and find a way to have a chance there at the end. And there were a couple innings we did, and we just didn’t capitalize, and that’s to [TCU’s] credit.”
In the ninth, Virginia had runners on first and second with no outs. But TCU closer Durbin Feltman quickly quelled the threat, striking out Robbie Coman, Cameron Simmons and Caleb Knight to end the game.
Now comes a second clash with Dallas Baptist for Virginia. In the first, the Cavaliers won despite giving up three home runs to the Patriots. Dallas Baptist blasted five more homers Sunday in their elimination-game victory over Central Connecticut State.
For the season, the Patriots have hit 92 home runs.
“They’re very, very aggressive at the plate, and swing hard,” O’Connor said, “and you have to make your pitches against them. You have to limit their opportunities.”
Junior right-hander Derek Casey pitched brilliantly for Virginia against Dallas Baptist on Saturday night, but he’s done for the regional. The Cavaliers’ options on the mound include Sousa, sophomore right-hander Evan Sperling, freshman right-hander Bobby Nicholson, sophomore right-hander Chesdin Harrington and junior right-hander Tommy Doyle, who’s usually used as a closer.
“We’ll sit back and look at it and determine what we need to do to win the first game [Monday],” O’Connor said, “and then to have a chance to advance on to Tuesday.”
Thunderstorms are a possibility Monday in Fort Worth, which received almost no rain in May, so there’s no guarantee the games will be played as scheduled at Lupton Stadium.
O’Connor downplayed the weather’s impact on the Cavaliers.
“This is baseball,” he said. “It happens. The weather affects this sport more than any other sport in college athletics. You become accustomed as players and coaches to dealing with this.
“It’s the same for both teams. It doesn’t have anything to do with the results on the field.”