Home O’Connor, UVA had the Edge in Game 3: Edgington was all the ‘Hoos needed on the mound
Sports

O’Connor, UVA had the Edge in Game 3: Edgington was all the ‘Hoos needed on the mound

Chris Graham
brian edgington
Photo: Jim Daves/UVA Athletics

Brian Edgington really wanted to go back out for the ninth inning in Sunday’s 12-2 Virginia win over Duke that sent the seventh-seeded Cavaliers to their sixth College World Series.

Not so much because he was needed to close the game out, but just because.

“After that eighth inning, I was really hoping they weren’t going to say I was done, because I was going to tell them I was going back out no matter what,” said Edgington, who finished off Duke with a 1-2-3 ninth, getting Luke Storm to fly out to left on his 114th pitch of the afternoon, ahead of the dogpile on the mound.

That Brian O’Connor only needed one guy in Game 3, and Duke coach Chris Pollard tried nine, with none of his guys really working out, said a lot about how things went for the two programs after the Blue Devils surprised Virginia in Game 1, rallying for two runs in the eighth in a 5-4 win.

Even in that one, O’Connor got a quality outing out of his starter, Nick Parker, who gave up three runs on six hits in six and two-thirds, striking out four, walking two and hitting two batters.

The Game 2 starter, Connelly Early, went seven innings, giving up three runs, all unearned, on nine hits, striking out eight, hitting one batter and not walking anybody in a 14-4 UVA win.

Then Edgington got the complete game in the clincher, giving up two runs on nine hits, striking out 11 and walking one.

The final statline for the starting rotation in the Super Regionals: 22.2 IP, 24 hits allowed, eight runs allowed, five earned, 23 strikeouts, three walks, three hit batters, 1.99 ERA, 1.32 WHIP.

This was after putting up an even better statline in the regionals: 18.1 innings pitched, three earned runs, 12 hits, 19 strikeouts, two walks, one hit batter, 1.47 ERA, 0.82 WHIP.

The depth of the rotation is why Virginia is one of the favorites in Omaha.

That Edgington, the #1 starter most of the season, could be held back to Game 3 is among the luxuries afforded to O’Connor.

“Brian Edgington was spectacular,” O’Connor told reporters after the game on Sunday. “To say a little bit about who he is, when I got a chance after the celebration to hug him, the first thing out of his mouth was thanking me for the opportunity for him to come here. And that gratefulness will serve him well, for the rest of his life. I know he really values the opportunity that he’s had here, and he has absolutely made the most of it.”

All three of the starters were pickups from the transfer portal. Edgington’s college career started way, way back in 2017, with a year at St. Joe’s that saw him go a humbling 2-2 with an 8.35 ERA in limited action.

Edge ended up playing JUCO ball in 2018 before transferring to Elon, where he went 10-7 with a 3.90 ERA in three seasons before landing at Virginia last fall.

O’Connor credited UVA pitching coach Drew Dickinson, who “saw some really great things in him,” O’Connor said.

“Edge’s previous pitching coach is a longtime friend of our coaching staff at Elon, and (Elon pitching) coach Jerry Oakes couldn’t have recommended him any higher,” O’Connor said. “When you knew that he was going to go do a graduate year, Jerry called us and said, You have to take this kid, right. And so, I just feel fortunate that we decided to offer him the opportunity, and he took us up on it. You know, he’s a winner. He wants the ball at the biggest times. And he’s continued to deliver for us all year long.”

It’s been a long, winding journey from St. Joe’s to Omaha for Edgington, but his confidence in himself never wavered.

“I always had an inner confidence in myself, but I do think if he would have told me my freshman year that I’m doing six years, and I’d end up my last one here, I’d probably tell you that you were lying, but I mean, I’m just grateful for the opportunity to be here,” said Edgington, who had just one blip in Sunday’s win, giving up a flyball-that-kept-carrying two-run homer to Jay Beshears with two outs in the sixth that briefly got Duke to within 5-2.

Virginia rallied for four runs in its half of the sixth to break the game open, and from there the only question was who was going to finish it out.

“We knew we were gonna send him back out,” O’Connor said. “I mean, he was very, very efficient, he was in control of the game. Like, he had one walk in nine innings, and you know, they just had a hard time figuring out his split or, you know, mixed in with his fastball that was up to 92, 93 miles an hour.

“Sometimes the best thing is just to leave the guy out there. I think sometimes as coaches we can out-think it. Let’s match up here, match up there. But when you throw like he was pitching, the best thing is, send him back out there, right? Sometimes change, you know, is not the best thing from that standpoint. And he had enough pitches in him. And he was determined to do everything he could to finish the ballgame.”

The complete game finish to the Super Regional was a dream come true for Edgington.

“You always dream about going the complete game, but usually, it very rarely happens,” Edgington said. “I mean, I had my splitter working today, which is typically my best pitch. So having that was good, but I mean, I just kind of stuck to the game plan, attacking hitters, and obviously, we have a great offense, so just doing my part is throwing up zeros or ones and just keep us in the game.”

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].