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Matt Augustin emerges as go-to guy in the back end of the UVA bullpen

Scott German
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Photo: UVA Athletics

It might be a stretch to say that Virginia first-year pitcher Matt Augustin saved the 2024 season for the Cavaliers, but then again, maybe not.

Let’s take a closer look.

UVA opened the 2024 slate jumping out to a 12-1 start, and traveled to Coral Gables to open the ACC slate with a three-game series against Miami.

Miami won the first two games.

Game 1, the Hurricanes rallied from a 4-0 deficit to win 6-5.

Saturday evening’s Game 2 was a complete fiasco for Virginia pitching, as UVA surrendered a 12-3 lead after six innings, eventually losing 16-12.

Miami was poised for an opening-weekend sweep on Sunday, to put Virginia into an early 0-3 hole in league play.

Again, the Cavaliers had trouble holding onto a sizable lead.

Leading 4-0 after three innings, Miami rallied back to tie the game at 11-all with a three-run seventh inning.

And the seventh could have been even bigger for Miami.

Had it not been for Matt Augustin.

The freshman Augustin, coming off a shaky outing earlier in the week against George Washington, entered the game with the bases full with just one out.

Augustin proceeded to strike out the next two Hurricane batters to keep the score tied.

UVA scored three in the ninth and held on for a 14-11 win, giving Augustin his first career win.

That effort in South Florida set the stage for Augustin to shine the brightest in clutch situations.

“Coming into the game against Miami, pitching well definitely boosted my confidence, and I believe boosted my coach’s confidence in me,” said Augustin.

“I think that performance against Miami provided me with other opportunities throughout the season in big moments. I didn’t always have the same results, but I knew I could pitch at this level.”

Augustin, 18, would have some other big moments as the season unfolded.

Fast forward to the winner’s bracket contest against Mississippi State in the Charlottesville Regional.

Virginia coach Brian O’Connor again called on the UVA first-year pitcher.

Trailing the Bulldogs 4-2, Augustin entered the game in relief of starter Evan Blanco.

Augustin held Mississippi State scoreless over two and two thirds innings, stranding four MSU base runners, three of whom were in scoring position.

Talk about baptism under fire.

Virginia rallied to win, 5-4.

While Augustin certainly has confidence and swagger, he makes sure his fellow teammates get credit for his success.

“The guys in the bullpen really helped me all season, Angelo Tonas really helped me focus on always being ready, being able to go when they need you. Joey Savino, when I was struggling with my command, he just took so much time with me, helping me regain my focus. Jack O’Connor had an enormous impact. Jack helped me gain at least 10 miles per hour on my slider, which I was able to use as a get-out pitch.

Against the Bulldogs’ projected first-round draft pick Dakota Jordan, who had 18 homers on the season, Augustin looked nothing like a first-year pitcher.

Facing Jordan with two on and two outs, Augustin quickly got ahead of the slugger 0-2.

Would Augustin use that effective slider to get Jordan out?

Nope.

Instead, Augustin hurled a 95-mph fastball at Jordan, who unleashed a violent swing, to no avail, swinging through it, ending the threat.

So, will Augustin be called upon in Omaha by O’Connor?

According to the Virginia coach, if needed he has complete confidence in Augustin, regardless of the stage.

“I can’t say enough about Matt, and what he has done this year for Virginia,” said O’Connor. “He is just a competitor, he wants the ball, he believes in himself, and that’s important. He’s a huge part of our success this year.”

They say that by the end of the year, freshmen are no longer freshmen.

For Matt Augustin, that Sunday afternoon in Miami may be the point when he was no longer a freshman.

Scott German

Scott German

Scott German covers UVA Athletics for AFP, and is the co-host of “Street Knowledge” podcasts focusing on UVA Athletics with AFP editor Chris Graham. Scott has been around the ‘Hoos his whole life. As a reporter, he was on site for UVA basketball’s Final Fours, in 1981 and 1984, and has covered UVA football in bowl games dating back to its first, the 1984 Peach Bowl.