"I don't know if I've seen a game that I've coached in that ended that way"
– Head Coach Brian O'Connor on Saturday night's series clinching win
If you were looking for more dramatic finishes to a collegiate athletic event, we found another ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/NaTtcTjGXR
— Virginia Baseball (@UVABaseball) April 7, 2019
SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Virginia (19-13, 8-7 ACC) came from behind in both of its victories in a doubleheader sweep over Notre Dame (12-17, 7-8 ACC) on Saturday (April 6) at Frank Eck Field. The Cavaliers took game one, 12-7 and benefited from an eighth-inning rally to come away with a 6-5 win in game two.
Virginia trailed 3-0 in the early stages of game one before scoring seven unanswered runs. In game two, Cameron Simmons (Royersford, Pa.) ended the game on an outfield assist at second base just before the tying run could cross the plate. The comeback wins are number 11 and 12 on the season.
“It was a huge day for the Cavaliers,” head coach Brian O’Connor said. “To get a doubleheader sweep on the road after dropping the game one (of the series) really says a lot to the character of these guys.”
The Cavaliers conclude a four-game road trip on Tuesday (April 9) at James Madison at 6 p.m. Virginia returns home on Wednesday (April 10) to open up a 10-game home stand.
Virginia starting pitcher Noah Murdock (Colonial Heights, Va.) overcame a three-run Notre Dame first inning in which the Fighting Irish sent nine batters to the plate and racked up four hits. The right-hander regrouped and retired nine of the next 11 batters. Notre Dame was kept off the board in the next 4.2 innings and Murdock finished the day with seven strikeouts. It marked the third-straight start with seven strikeouts.
While Murdock kept the Fighting Irish offense at bay, the Cavaliers scored seven-straight runs to open up a 7-3 lead after six innings, a lead they never relinquished. Nate Eikhoff (Bristow, Va.) tied the game up a three with a two-run homer in the fourth. The long ball was the first of the season for Eikhoff and sixth of his career.
Nic Kent (Charlottesville, Va.) gave Virginia the lead for good when he tripled down the right field line in the sixth, scoring Cayman Richardson (Mechanicsville, Va.). The triple was the second of the season for Kent who went 1-for-5 with a pair of RBIs.
Notre Dame made it interesting late in the game, pulling within a run in the bottom of the eighth inning. After scoring two runs in the seventh, the Fighting Irish put the first three runners on base in the eighth and used two sacrifice flies to make the score 8-7.
Virginia put the game out of reach in the top of the ninth with four runs, two via bases loaded walks and another two came across on a two-out Notre Dame error.
Reliever Kyle Whitten (Manassas, Va.), who had come on in the eighth, worked around a Fighting Irish baserunner in the ninth to record his fifth save of the season. He fanned two in 1.2 innings pitched.
Notre Dame jumped out to a 3-0 advantage with one swing, a three-run home run by Niko Kavadas in the bottom of the third inning. On the other end of the ball, Fighting Irish starting pitcher Cameron Junker did not allow a hit or a baserunner until Cameron Comer (Powell, Ohio) singled into right field in the sixth inning.
The single sparked a two-run rally that included an RBI single by Tanner Morris (Crozet, Va.) and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Kent.
Trailing 3-2 in the eighth, Kent tied the game up with single to center that scored Richardson. The next batter, Brendan Rivoli (Douglassville, Pa.), doubled down the right field line to give Virginia a 4-3 advantage.
The Cavaliers carried a 6-3 lead into bottom of the ninth inning and much like the first game, Notre Dame did not go away quietly. Jack Zyska delivered a two-run, two out single through the left side to pull the Fighting Irish within a run.
After walking Kavadas to put the tying run on second base, Notre Dame’s Eric Gilgenbach singled up the middle but before the run came across home plate, Simmons threw the ball to second base rather than to home to cut down the tying run. The throw caught Kavadas leaning off second and the out was recorded before the tying run touched home plate. The play was reviewed and confirmed to seal the Virginia win.
Whitten saved the nightcap for his sixth of the year and second of the day. He is the first Virginia pitcher to save both ends of a doubleheader since Branden Kline in 2011.
Virginia starting pitcher Mike Vasil (Wellesley, Mass.) produced his first quality start of the year, logging a season-high 6.2 innings, allowing just the three runs on the home run by Kavadas. He fanned a season-best, seven batters.