Story by Chris Graham
Cody Reine hit two more home runs, including a three-run shot in the first on the heels of a controversial call on a 3-2 pitch to Tyler Ogle by home-plate umpire Chuck Lyon that extended that inning, and Bobby Shore pitched eight strong innings for Oklahoma as the Sooners punched their ticket to Omaha with a surprisingly easy 11-0 win over Virginia in the finale of the Super Regional best-of-three Monday night in Charlottesville.
“It was a tough ballgame. Obviously, they beat us pretty good,” said UVa. coach Brian O’Connor, who admitted afterward to not having been more frustrated after a game in his seven seasons as a head coach. Oklahoma (49-16) dominated in all phases of the game, hitting four home runs on offense and then out in the field on defense getting a performance from Shore (10-4) and reliever Ryan Duke that included not allowing a single UVa. runner to get past first base.
Branden Kline (5-1) took the loss, giving up four runs in an inning and two-thirds. Neither he nor O’Connor put any heat on Lyon for the obviously squeezed strike zone that he gave to the Virginia starter. Lyon also almost comically tried to call Cavs rightfielder Dan Grovatt out on strikes in the bottom of the first on a 3-1 pitch that he was calling a strike.
The focus after this tough one to swallow for O’Connor, his team and another sellout crowd of 4,801 was on what in many respects the most memorable season in UVa. baseball history. Though it fell short of the goal of a second straight College World Series appearance, the ‘Hoos won a school-record 51 games in 2010, spent a good portion of the season at the top of the national polls, including finishing the regular season at #1 in the Baseball America poll, earned the first national seed in program history, and hosted the first-ever Super Regional in Charlottesville before three sellout crowds.
“Even though we didn’t make it to Omaha, we won 51 games and set record crowds throughout the season. We had to extend the bleachers out because people wanted to come see us play. Even though we didn’t get to Omaha, we still did some things really well, and those are the things you have to take,” said senior shortstop Tyler Cannon, a 12th-round selection of the Cleveland Indians in last week’s Major League draft.
Cannon was one of six Cavaliers taken in the 2010 MLB draft – along with Jarrett Parker, a second-round pick (74th overall) of the San Francisco Giants, Phil Gosselin, a fifth-round pick (164th overall) of the Atlanta Braves, Robert Morey, a fifth-round pick (167th overall) of the Florida Marlins, Kevin Arico, a 10th-round pick (307th overall) of the Cincinnati Reds, and Grovatt, an 11th-round pick (327th overall) by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“The people I feel for the most in this situation are our seniors and our draft-eligible players, who, depending on what they decide to do, won’t have the chance to wear this uniform again. I know that’s difficult for them. It’s difficult for me seeing some of them go because they’ve made so many great contributions to our program,” O’Connor said.
A sizable portion of the fan base stayed through to the final out and chanted “U-V-A! U-V-A! U-V-A!” as the OU players dogpiled near the pitchers’ mound in celebration of their school’s first trip to the College World Series in 15 years.
“There’s some reason all these fans come out here, and I don’t think it’s because we won 51 games. I think a big part of it is that our fans can identify with our players. They respect our players and the way they play the game and the way they go about their business,” O’Connor said. “I’ll remember a team that never backed down, a team that handled the pressure of being one of the top-ranked teams in the country. We didn’t make it to Omaha, but there are a lot of great teams that didn’t make it to Omaha, either.”