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Navigating the twists, turns of UVA’s regional final win over ODU

uva odu celebration
Devin Ortiz is mobbed at home plate after his 10th inning walkoff homer. Photo courtesy UVA Athletics.

Breakfast in Columbia turned into lunch and a mid-afternoon snack as Virginia and top seed ODU went on a wild roller coaster ride toward a Super Regional berth.

It was more than a walkoff homer in the bottom of the 10th, basically, though that was of course exciting.

First inning

Kenny Levari’s double had to have your nervous: So, Brian O’Connor sends out a guy in Devin Ortiz who’d pitched two innings all season, hoping to get a couple of innings out of him at best, considering how depleted his pitching staff was going into the day.

Ortiz got the dangerous Kyle Battle to fly out leading off the top of the first, and then Kenny Levari lined a 3-1 pitch down the left field line for a ground-rule double.

Uh, oh.

This was what you feared. Ortiz is a DH for a reason; he can rake.

He’d also thrown two innings all season for a reason.

He rallied to strike out Carter Trice and get Andy Garriola to fly out.

Huge.

Third inning

Here we go again: Ortiz hit Thomas Wheeler with one out, then walked Battle.

Yikes.

Ortiz had done well to give UVA two shutout innings. O’Connor sent relievers scrambling toward the bullpen between batters to get ready for the inevitable.

Then Ortiz struck out Levari and got Trice to fly out.

Whew.

Sixth inning

The wheels come off, briefly: Trice hit a one-out grounder to second, which Max Cotier fielded cleanly after diving to his right, but he wasn’t able to get the ball out of his glove to make a throw to first.

Except that he still tried, overthrew everybody, allowing Trice to advance to second.

After Zach Messinger struck out Garriola for the second out, O’Connor went to Andrew Abbott out of the pen to face lefty Brock Gagliardi, a sound move, considering the circumstances.

For the first of two times on the day that a defensive shift would factor in an ODU run, Abbott induced a weak grounder to short off the bat of Gagliardi, only that because of the overshift to the right side, there was nobody at short, and the ball snuck through for a single to left-center, and a run.

Abbott rallied to strike out Matt Coutney to end the inning, but still, damage done.

Sum total of the inning: two ground balls produce a run.

With ODU starter Hunter Gregory throwing a perfect game to this point, it’s not feeling good for the ‘Hoos.

Seventh inning

Dumb baserunning: Tommy Bell, on second with two outs, and Battle, ODU’s best hitter, in the batter’s box, inexplicably bolted for third as UVA reliever Stephen Schoch was set to pitch.

You don’t make the third out of an inning at third, especially with your best hitter in the box.

Dumb, plain dumb.

Crazy bottom of the seventh: Cotier walked, and you’re expecting O’Connor to have Kyle Teel bunt.

ODU reliever Jason Hartline threw to first to see if Teel would show bunt; he didn’t.

First pitch was a get-over fastball that Teel almost knocked out of the park.

It ended up being a very long single, with Cotier advancing to third.

Ortiz hit one down the third-base line; for some reason, Cotier stayed put, but the infield single loaded the bases.

Nic Kent hit into an apparent double play, but upon review it was determined that Coutney hadn’t had control of the ball on the throw to first, so it ended up being a fielder’s choice RBI.

Alex Tappen singled to left to make it 2-1.

UVA was in the driver’s seat.

Six outs away.

Eighth inning

Don’t count outs: Battle walked on a 3-2 pitch leading off the ODU eighth. Levari and Trice K’d, so there were two down.

Garriola walked, putting runners on first and second for Gagliardi, who singled to center to tie the score.

Cotier, positioned in short right on a shift for the lefty Coutney, had trouble picking the ball off the wet outfield grass on a grounder; his second error of the day loaded the bases for Bell, who singled to right to break the tie.

Key play of the day here: Teel cut down Gagliardi and a potential second run, and 4-2 lead, at the plate.

At bat of the day: Ortiz, later the hero on the walkoff, worked a walk with two outs in the eighth, and this AB was bigger.

Don’t @ me.

He came up with runners on first and second and two down.

Hartline got ahead in the count 1-and-2. Ortiz laid off the 1-2 to get the count even.

Hartline for some reason lost it here. He wildly overthrew the 2-2 to the screen, and the wild pitch put runners on second and third, eliminating the easy force out at second on an infield grounder.

Then he airmailed the 3-2, allowing Zack Gelof to score from third with the tying run.

There aren’t 10th inning walkoff heroics if Ortiz doesn’t work his way back from 1-2 to earn that base on balls.

Ninth inning

Cutting the tension with a knife: Schoch worked around a two-out HBP of Battle to get out of the top half with no drama.

Virginia then created some drama in the bottom half, with the help of a one-out throwing error by Bell at short, and a wild pitch on a swinging strikeout by Zack Gelof that allowed Gelof to reach first with two down.

Reliever Noah Dean then got Cotier to fly out meekly to center to end the threat.

10th inning

You know the rest of the story: I’ll highlight Schoch here, because, dude, the Kenny Powers love child is a friggin’ warrior.

You don’t want to go spelunking with Schoch, but with a season on the line, and his right arm dangling by a thread from his shoulder, he went out in the 10th and set down the side in order, striking out Trice swinging to lead off and Gagliardi looking to end it, setting up the dramatics from Ortiz in the bottom half.

Schoch went 75 pitches in three and a third after hoisting 37 in two and a third on Sunday.

Friggin’ warrior.

The best part: More per diems this weekend, meaning, more Dippin’ Dots.

Story by Chris Graham


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augusta free press
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