UVA Baseball: Big inning lifts ‘Hoos to midweek win over Liberty

uva baseballA five-run fifth inning proved to be the difference for Virginia (24-18) in a 6-3 victory over in-state foe Liberty (29-11) on Tuesday night (April 23) at Disharoon Park.

The Cavaliers earned a split in the home and home midweek series.

Trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the fifth, freshman Nic Kent (Charlottesville, Va.) ignited the big two-out rally with a two-run home run over the left field wall to tie the game at three. The homer was his third of the season and the RBIs were his team-leading 34th and 35th of the season.

The next batter, Brendan Rivoli (Douglassville, Pa.), put the Cavaliers up for good with a double down the right field line that plated Zack Gelof (Rehoboth Beach, Del.) who also doubled earlier in the frame. The final two-bagger of the inning came off the bat of Nate Eikhoff (Bristow, Va.) and scored Cameron Simmons (Royersford, Pa.). For the game, the Cavaliers amassed five doubles, a season-high and the most since racking up seven against William & Mary on March 1, 2016.

All five of the runs came off Liberty’s Garrett Price who came into the contest with the lowest ERA in the country at 0.86. Price had allowed only one run over his previous 20.2 innings of work, a span of 10 appearances.

“I was just really, really proud, it was a total collective team effort,” head coach Brian O’Connor said. “It was an impressive win quite frankly. I think Liberty has a really good ball club, their a potentially a (NCAA) regional type team and I thought our guys responded and played good baseball.”

Starting pitcher Andrew Abbott (Halifax, Va.) retired the first eight batters of the game, three of them by way of the strikeout. The ninth batter, designated hitter Ben Highfill gave the Flames the lead with a solo home run to left in the third inning. The hit was the only one Abbott would surrender in four innings of work. The left-hander matched a career-high with six strikeouts in his third career start.

Abbott handed the ball over to Chesdin Harrington (Montpelier, Va.) who pitched the next three innings and was credited with his third win of the season. Harrington allowed a go-ahead home run to Jonathan Embry in the top of the fifth but bounced back with two scoreless frames.

Senior Riley Wilson (Midlothian, Va.) bridged the gap to Kyle Whitten (Manassas, Va.) by tossing a scoreless eighth inning. Whitten inherited a runner in the top of the ninth but went on to record three-straight outs including a strikeout and a game-ending pop up to third base. Whitten was credited with his seventh save, the second most in the ACC.

Seven of the nine Virginia hitters were credited with a base knock in the contest while eight reached base safely. Rivoli went 2-for-4 with two doubles, two runs scored and an RBI. It was his 15th multi-hit game of the season. Eikhoff reached three times and went 2-for-3 with two RBI.

To go along with a two-hit night, Logan Michaels (DeForest, Wis.) played stellar defense behind the plate, particularly in the eighth inning in which he made a catch up against the screen of the backstop for the first out. He then started a wild pitch, 2-3-2 putout at the plate to prevent a fourth Liberty run. Michaels was 2-for-4 with a run scored.

Virginia’s home stand will come to a close on Wednesday (April 24) against James Madison at Disharoon Park. The Cavaliers will have LHP Billy Price on the bump and he will be opposed by righty Michael Bechtold. First pitch is slated for 6 p.m.

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