Eighth isn’t enough: Texas takes control late, eliminates UVA from CWS
Texas broke a 2-2 tie in another fateful eighth inning for Virginia, and the clock struck midnight – OK, technically, it was just shy of 1 a.m. local time – on UVA’s season early Friday morning.
The Longhorns broke the Cavaliers’ six-game winning streak in elimination games in the 2021 NCAA Tournament with a 6-2 win in a College World Series game that featured a three-hour, 45-minute delayed start and plenty of drama – early, late and otherwise.
First, the early: Virginia got a helluva start from Mike Vasil, who’d had an 8.83 ERA since May 1 coming in, but the junior righty stymied the ‘Horns, limiting them to two runs, one earned, on four hits in seven innings of work, striking out eight, walking one, and punctuating third outs with fist pumps and even some Trevor Bauer-inspired swordplay.
Chris Newell supplied the offense with a Ruthian two-run fifth-inning blast off Texas starter Pete Hansen that tied the game at 2-2, and set up the late-inning theatrics.
Unfortunately for the ‘Hoos, they were all from the Longhorns.
Leadoff man Mike Antico, 0-for-3 going into the eighth, pulled a single through the hole between first and second off Matt Wyatt, setting up an unenviable situation for Wyatt, considering Antico’s 40 stolen bases on the season coming in.
Antico indeed ended up stealing second to get into scoring position, and came around to score on a two-out Ivan Melendez RBI single that put Texas up 3-2.
Virginia, in its half of the eighth, got a leadoff single from leadoff man Zack Gelof, who advanced to second on a sac bunt from Max Cotier.
Kyle Teel, 7-for-12 at the College World Series, was hit by the first pitch from UT closer Aaron Nixon, putting two on with one out.
Brian O’Connor pinch-hit for cleanup man Devin Ortiz, 0-for-11 in Omaha and 2-for-21 since his walkoff homer in the Columbia Regional clincher back on June 8, with Brendan Rivoli.
Rivoli grounded into a double play on an 0-1 offering from Nixon, ending that threat.
Wyatt walked rightfielder Douglas Hodo leading off the ninth, and was lifted in favor of Zach Messinger, who was late to first on a sac bunt attempt from Eric Kennedy, putting two on with nobody out.
Then Messinger hit catcher Silas Ardoin, who was also trying to bunt, loading them up with none out.
Antico lined a shot down the third-base line off the glove of Gelof, but shortstop Nic Kent fielded the carom and cut down Hodo at the plate for out number one.
Messinger then struck out Cam Williams for the second out, and had Zach Zubia down in the count 1-2, one pitch away from getting out of the situation with no damage.
Zubia took a high fastball for ball two, fouled off another high fastball, then laid off a nasty 2-2 slider to work the count full.
Advantage Zubia, who drilled the 3-2 fastball into left-center, clearing the bases.
Virginia got a two-out infield from Jake Gelof, but Logan Michaels grounded out to short to end it.
It was a tough way to go for a Virginia team that two nights ago had a 4-0 lead in the eighth over Mississippi State before the Bulldogs mounted a six-run rally to go on to a 6-5 win.
The eighth inning was, again, UVA’s undoing on Thursday into Friday.
It had seemed destiny was in the Cavaliers’ favor – from the 11-14 start through April 1, the 22-21 mark ahead of the May exam break, the 6-0 mark in elimination games in the Regional and Super Regional rounds.
Alas, wasn’t to be.
The Virginia team, ranked as high as fifth nationally in the preseason, finishes CWS play tied for fifth with a 1-2 record in Omaha.
Story by Chris Graham