Home Woolfolk, limited by knee, tried to gut it out: ‘It sucks that’s the way to end your season’

Woolfolk, limited by knee, tried to gut it out: ‘It sucks that’s the way to end your season’

Chris Graham
jay woolfolk uva baseball college world series
Photo: UVA Baseball/YouTube

Jay Woolfolk was a key reason this year’s UVA Baseball team was able to make a surprise stretch run to the 2024 College World Series.

Baseball, though, can be a cruel mistress.

After Woolfolk had battled back from early-season yips that cost him his spot in the starting rotation to be the guy who started and got the Ws in the Regional and Super Regional clinchers, a “freak accident” in last week’s win over Kansas State made it hard on him in his start in Virginia’s CWS elimination game with Florida State on Sunday.

“I’m sorry, it sucks that’s the way to end your season. It’s the last time I pitched. And Omaha. Just, I couldn’t tell you what really happened. Like I said, freak accident. I feel great now. I wish I could have kept going,” said Woolfolk, who was lifted with one out in the fourth inning in the 7-3 loss on Sunday.

Rewinding for a second, remember that Woolfolk had to get looked at by a trainer in the third inning of the 10-4 win over Kansas State last week after landing awkwardly following a pitch.

He was able to continue, and went on to pitch into the seventh inning, giving up three runs on six hits, with seven Ks and two walks, to get the W, but then we saw Woolfolk was wearing a protective sleeve on his right knee as he took part in UVA’s pre-College World Series practice on Thursday, and was clearly favoring his right leg while on the field and in the dugout after practice.

It’s probably the football player in him – Woolfolk was the backup to record-setting UVA QB Brennan Armstrong for two years, and started a game in place of an injured Armstrong against Notre Dame as a true freshman in 2021, before deciding last summer to give up football to concentrate his energies on his baseball career – that got him through the week to be able to make the start on Sunday.

The junior right-hander was lights-out in the first two innings on Sunday, setting FSU down in order with three strikeouts.

“Woolfolk’s fastball was hot,” Florida State coach Link Jarrett said. “Those guys (his players) talked to each other early. It was 93, 94, but they’re like, that thing is riding as much as we’ve seen.”

“I think I went, was it, six up, six down, in the first two innings. Felt great. Felt like I commanded every single pitch at will,” Woolfolk said.

FSU, though, started to get to Woolfolk in the third. Alex Lodise led off the inning with a line shot to the warning track in left that Anthony Stephan made a highlight-reel running catch on for out #1.

The next hitter, Drew Faurot, ripped a single through the hole between first and second.

Woolfolk got Jaxson West to pop up to third for out #2, ahead of Max Williams, the one-hole hitter, dropping a soft liner to the grass in short left for a single.

Woolfolk got ahead of Cam Smith 1-2 before losing him for a walk to load the bases, then he walked James Tibbs III to force in the first run of the game.

Marco Dinges grounded out to second to allow Woolfolk to escape the inning with just the one run coming across.

Leading off the fourth, Jaime Ferrer drove Woolfolk’s first pitch halfway up the stands in left field for a solo homer.

UVA coach Brian O’Connor and trainer Brian McGuire came out to check on Woolfolk, who was walking gingerly behind the mound after the homer, and left him in the game after Woolfolk completed a round of warmup pitches.

After getting Daniel Cantu to line out to center, Woolfolk walked Lodise, prompting another visit from O’Connor and McGuire, and the decision to lift Woolfolk in favor of Joe Savino.

“It pained me to take him out of the game, but you all saw him hobbling out there,” O’Connor said, explaining that “as much as he wants to gut through it, when your velocity drops two or three miles an hour, and you can see him not moving athletically on the mound like he does when he’s fine,” he really had no choice.

Woolfolk, for his part, insisted after the game that he felt like he “could have kept going,” but again, that’s probably the football player talking.

It was almost certainly the last game in a Virginia uniform – baseball or football – for Woolfolk, who is a projected third- to fifth-round pick in next month’s MLB Draft.

Woolfolk was, understandably, emotional in the moments after his final college game.

“Coach Bronco Mendenhall, Coach Tony (Elliott), and now Coach Oak, these past few years, I want you all to know I gave you all everything that I had on the field, off the field, in the classroom. I don’t know where I am today without them. Obviously, my family. But Coach Oak, you know, took a chance on a man who came to UVA not a hundred percent in baseball,” Woolfolk said.

“I could talk on about Coach Elliott and Coach Mendenhall, but just, Coach Oak, since you’re here, know that I gave everything that I had, and thank you for making me the man I am today. I wouldn’t be this far without you. The talks we had when the season was down, I wouldn’t be here where I am, what you’ve done for me and my family,” Woolfolk said.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham, the king of "fringe media," 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].

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