UVA Baseball: ‘Hoos defeat VMI in home opener
Evan Sperling (Poquoson, Va.), Zach Messinger (Chandler, Ind.), Blake Bales (Schoolcraft, Mich.) and Chesdin Harrington (Montpelier, Va.) limited the Keydets to two hits and struck out a combined 15 batters.
Sperling did not factor in the decision but showed flashes of brilliance in his first start of the season. The right-hander struck out nine batters, the fourth time in his career he’s fanned nine or more in a game. VMI’s Cody Warner broke up Sperling’s no-hit bid with a single through the right side in the fourth inning, also halting his streak of five-straight strikeouts that began in the top of the first inning.
Messinger, making his collegiate debut, struck out five batters in three innings of relief. The first-year got himself out of a sixth-inning jam, striking out all three batters while stranding runners on second and third. In total, five Keydets were left in scoring position over his fifth, sixth and seventh innings.
“It’s good to be home, certainly,” head coach Brian O’Connor said. “I told our team, I was really proud of them, how they responded after this opening weekend out in Arizona. Sperling went out there, his command wasn’t great, but I was really proud of him that he buckled down and made big pitches with runners on.”
The Virginia offense did all its damage in the first and fifth innings. Nate Eikhoff (Bristow, Va.) delivered the big blow in the first inning with a bases-clearing, two-out double down the left field line to cap a four-run rally. He finished the day 1-for-3 with three RBI.
In the fifth, Tanner Morris (Crozet, Va.) plated the first two runners of a five-run frame. His double in the gap scored Zack Gelof (Rehoboth Beach, Del..) and Logan Michaels (DeForest, Wis.). Morris, who came in as the team’s top hitter, finished the day 1-for-3 with two runs scored and two RBI. He’s now hitting .438 with four runs scored and four RBI in 209
Back-to-back, two-out RBI doubles by Alex Tappen (Lower Gwynedd, Pa.) and Brendan Rivoli (Douglassville, Pa.) followed by three-straight hit by pitches that led to a run finished off the largest single-inning output of the young season for Virginia.
Bales and Harrington each worked perfect innings in the eighth and ninth respectively, to seal Virginia’s first win of the year.
The Cavaliers will continue its home stand with a weekend series against Villanova beginning Friday (Feb. 22). First pitch for the opener is scheduled for 3 p.m. while Saturday and Sunday’s contests are slated for 1 p.m. starts.
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