NCAA Baseball: Bucknell rolls the dice on bunt, gets burned

college world seriesTop seed UVA led Bucknell by a too-close-for-comfort 3-0 margin in the bottom of the sixth. Given the Cavs’ recent troubles in middle relief, and starting pitcher Artie Lewicki’s pitch count already over 100, it was a critical juncture in the game.

Nate Irving, who had already laid down a successful sacrifice bunt earlier in the game, was at bat. Irving failed to get the bunt down on the first pitch, and Bucknell coach Scott Heather decided to take a gamble, putting on the wheel play with shortstop Greg Wasikowski breaking for third.

Irving, as expected, dropped the bunt down the third-base line to Sam Clark, the third baseman, who wheeled around to throw the ball to the covering Wasikowski. A good throw beats baserunner John LaPrise at third by a couple of steps.

But the throw was wide of third, and bounded down into the left-field corner. LaPrise and brandon downes scored on the play, the lead was 5-0, and Virginia went on to tack on five more runs in the inning to put the game out of reach.

Heather, after the game, didn’t second-guess the decision to go with the wheel play.

“We took a gamble on that play,” Heather said. “It was first and second with Irving up. We felt pretty strongly that he was going to put a bunt down, and we put the wheel play on to try to get the lead runner. We really couldn’t let it get past three. They’re tough to score on, and so we took a gamble.”

If the throw is on line, again, LaPrise is out, but those are the breaks.

“If we execute there, it may be a different story, we might get out of the inning with minimizing the damage. It’s really the play of the game where they broke it open. I think we had the right play on, we just didn’t execute,” Heather said.

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