By Jeff White (

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — After Henry Godbout crushed the three-run home run that put the Virginia Cavaliers ahead to stay in the bottom of the seventh inning, his teammates mobbed him outside the third-base dugout. The throng included Jay Woolfolk, who then turned to the stands and exhorted the crowd at Disharoon Park.

Woolfolk, a right-handed pitcher, did not play Friday night in the first game of UVA’s best-of-three NCAA super regional with Kansas State. But he’ll be on the mound Saturday afternoon with an opportunity to help the Wahoos, who are seeded No. 12 in the NCAA tournament, advance to the College World Series for the third time in four seasons and seventh time in program history.

He struggled for much of the regular season, but Woofolk started UVA’s third and final game in last weekend’s NCAA regional at the Dish and delivered an unforgettable performance.

Against Mississippi State, Woolfolk recorded seven strikeouts in eight innings, both career highs, in UVA’s 9-2 victory.

“He stepped up for our team when we needed him,” O’Connor said.


The Hoos, the only team hosting a super regional for the second straight year, overcame a slow start Friday night and rallied for a 7-4 win over K-State, which entered the NCAA tournament as the No. 3 seed in the Fayetteville, Ark., regional.

The teams will meet again at 3 p.m. Saturday in front of another sellout crowd at Disharoon Park, where the Cavaliers (45-15) have won their past seven games.

O’Connor said the key for No. 4 is “really just going out there and being Jay Woolfolk and getting us off to a good start … I expect him to go out there and attack and pitch us a great ball game. I don’t know that he’ll go eight innings again like he did last Sunday, but I’m very, very confident that he’ll go out there and give it everything he has and give us a chance to win the game.”

Jay Woolfolk (left) and Jacob Ference last weekend

That’s what Evan Blanco did Friday night against the Wildcats (35-25). The sophomore left-hander struck out nine and walked only one in his seven innings.

“I think Evan Blanco’s effort tonight was really special,” O’Connor said. “Your job as a starter, even though if you fall behind, is to go out there and keep your team in the ball game … A lot is said about the three-run home run by Godbout, but I really feel that Evan Blanco’s outing to get us to the eighth inning was the difference in the ball game. It really was that he never left the game with it being out of reach and went out there and did his job and kept his team in the game.”

The game started on an inauspicious note for the Cavaliers, when center-fielder Bobby Whalen lost a fly ball in the sun, allowing K-State’s leadoff batter, Brendan Jones, to reach third on a Mother Nature-assisted triple. The Wildcats’ next batter drove in Jones with an RBI groundout, but Blanco was unfazed.

“As a pitcher, you’ve got to flip the page pretty quickly,” Blanco said. “I feel like I did a good job of that, getting three consecutive outs right after that.”


K-State added two runs in the third to stretch its lead to 3-0, but the Hoos never panicked. The come-from-behind victory was their 23rd of the season.

“They’re a winning program,” K-State head coach Pete Hughes said. “That’s what winning programs do. They know how to play with a lead. They know how to play from behind. When you’ve won as much as those guys have won, it’s expected … There’s a home-field advantage that comes with that. Winning breeds winning.”

Hughes, a former Virginia Tech head coach, said right-hander Jack Wentworth (5-5, 4.11 ERA) will start Saturday for the Wildcats. Their starter Friday night, left-hander Owen Boerema, kept the Cavaliers off-balance in the early innings, but one of the nation’s most explosive offenses eventually broke through.

“This is a special offensive ball club,” said O’Connor, whose team is hitting .336 this season.

The Hoos totaled nine hits Friday night, with Godbout, Griff O’Ferrall and Henry Ford collecting two apiece.

“There’s just no rest [for opponents], one through nine,” Hughes said after the first-ever baseball game between these schools. “Anyone can burn you. We saw that tonight. There’s no time off. You have to work one through nine. That middle of that lineup is really scary … This is a pretty impressive lineup that they’ve put together.”

Evan Blanco

Virginia cut K-State’s lead to 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth. O’Ferrall, who’d drawn a leadoff walk, scored on Casey Saucke’s sacrifice fly to right, and Whalen, who’d reached on an error, came home on Ford’s groundout to third.

The Cavaliers took their first lead in the sixth when O’Ferrall drove in Godbout and Ethan Anderson with a ground-rule double, but K-State answered with a solo homer in the top of the seventh to make it 4-4.

For the Wildcats, who have reached an NCAA super regional for only the second time, the bottom half of the seventh proved to be their downfall. They had a chance to turn an inning-ending double play but failed to do so, and Godbout came to the plate with runners on first and third.

The 6-foot-2, 190-pound sophomore made the Wildcats rue their defensive lapse. He hammered a pitch from reliever Cole Wisenbaker over the left-field wall to make it 7-4.

“It was a pretty special moment,” said Godbout, who’s hitting .370 with nine homers this season.

Against Boerema, Godbout had struck out in his first two at-bats, after which “I reminded him that it’s not how the game starts, it’s how the game ends,” O’Connor said.

Relievers Angelo Tonas and Matt Augustin shut out K-State in the final two innings to make sure this game ended happily for Virginia.

The Hoos look to take the final step Saturday and advance back to Omaha, Neb. Virginia’s roster includes such players as Whalen, Ford, Jacob Ference, Eric Becker and Joe Savino, all of whom were elsewhere last season, but O’Connor also has multiple veterans with College World Series experience. They’ve learned how to handle pressure situations.

“When you get to this point, you have to slow your heartbeat down,” O’Connor said. “You have to trust what you’ve done all year long and don’t make the moment too big. That’s what allows them to come from behind and find a way to win. They’re not pressing. It’s what allows somebody like Evan Blanco to go out there and understand what his job is, even [after] falling behind.”

Not since 2015, when they went on to capture the NCAA title, have the Hoos needed only two games to win a super regional.

“Listen, Kansas State is not going to go away,” O’Connor said. “They are an incredibly talented team.”

So are the Cavaliers, who have won 30 home games for the first time since 2014. In what could be his team’s final 2024 appearance at the Dish, O’Connor said he wants his players to focus “on coming out and playing hard and playing good Virginia baseball. And if the opportunity is there to advance on, we will.”

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Henry Godbout (2)