Led by six shutout innings from starting pitcher Nathan Kirby (So., Midlothian, Va.), the top-ranked UVa. baseball team blanked VMI, 12-0, on a windy Saturday afternoon in the Hughes Bros. Challenge in Wilmington, N.C. The game was played in consistent high winds of 25 mph, with gusts up to 35 mph.
Kirby (1-0) worked a career-long six innings, allowing just four hits and a walk while striking out seven, also a career high, as just two balls left the infield against him. Freshman Alec Bettinger (Woodbridge, Va.) allowed a hit and two walks in 1 2/3 innings in his first college outing, while Kevin Doherty (So., Laytonsville, Md.) pitched the final 1 1/3 innings to finish off the shutout.
Virginia’s bats came alive with a dozen hits, with five players recording two hits apiece. In addition to a pair of hits, Brandon Downes (Jr., South Plainfield, N.J.) drove in three runs, while Mike Papi (Jr., Tunkhannock, Pa.) scored three runs and reached base four times.
VMI (0-2) did not help its case in committing six errors. Seven of Virginia’s runs were unearned.
Virginia (1-1) jumped to a 2-0 lead in the second inning. Derek Fisher (Jr., Rexmont, Pa.) led off with a high fly ball which got caught in the wind and landed on the left-field warning track for a triple. Shortstop Ray Lopez’s relay throw to third sailed high, allowing Fisher to come around to score. Nick Howard (Jr., Olney, Md.) then singled and moved around to third on Bach’s errant pickoff throw. He scored on a Robbie Coman (So., Lake Worth, Fla.) safety squeeze.
UVa doubled its lead in the third with timely two-out hitting. Papi led off with a single and moved up a pair of bases on Bach’s second errant pickoff throw of the afternoon. Two outs later, with Papi still at third, Fisher lined a 3-0 pitch to right for a run-scoring single. Howard then tripled off the base of the center-field wall to score Fisher.
The Cavaliers tacked on a run in the fourth inning on a sacrifice fly from Joe McCarthy (So., Scranton, Pa.) to plate Papi and blew the game open with five unearned runs in the fifth inning. UVa sent 11 batters to the plate in the fifth, getting RBI singles from Coman, Papi and McCarthy followed by a two-run single from Downes.
Virginia added a pair of runs in the seventh inning, getting a Downes RBI single to plate Papi, and Robert Bennie (So., Stroudsburg, Pa.) reached on an error which scored Downes.
The Cavaliers conclude their weekend against the tournament’s host school, UNC Wilmington, at 2 p.m. Sunday. Links to live video and audio broadcasts will be available on VirginiaSports.com.