Walk-off sac fly lifts #21 UVA past JMU, 3-2
Freshman Tanner Morris (Crozet, Va.) delivered a bases loaded sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth inning in a 3-2 walk-off Virginia win over James Madison (10-7). The Cavaliers improved to 11-6 overall and 4-1 midweek contests this season.
Alex Tappen (Lower Gwynedd, Pa.) drew a lead-off walk in the bottom of the ninth and moved over to third on a James Madison throwing error. Andrew Papantonis (Glen Gardner, N.J.) was then hit by a pitch to load the bases. Morris drove a 2-1 pitch into centerfield that was deep enough to not warrant a throw, allowing Tappen to trot home for the game-winning run.
Virginia scored the game’s final two runs for the comeback win. Nate Eikhoff (Bristow, Va.) tied the game in the eighth on a perfectly executed safety squeeze play that scored Andy Weber (Aurora, Ohio).
“I thought overall it was a great team win,” head coach Brian O’Connor said. “Bobby Nicholson pitched terrific again and I thought our offensive intensity at the end to win the game was really good. I think James Madison has a good club and that’s a good win for us between two ACC series.”
Virginia starting pitcher Bobby Nicholson (Charlottesville, Va.) established career-highs in innings pitched (6.0) and strikeouts (7) in the contest. After surrendering a hit to lead-off the game, the sophomore retired nine batters in-a-row. He scattered five hits and did issue a walk in his third start of 2018. Nicholson stranded five Dukes in scoring position and allowed his only run on a sacrifice fly in his final inning of work.
James Madison took its only lead of the game in the top of the eighth inning on a wind-aided double to right center by Zach Tondi. The Dukes put two runners on first and second in the top of the ninth, forcing O’Connor to go to his closer, Bennett Sousa (North Palm Beach, Fla.) with two outs. The senior lefty struck out the final batter of the inning to keep the game tied at two.
It proved to be the only batter Sousa faced as he earned his second win of the season. Sousa has struck out 10 batters in his last 4.2 innings of relief.
Virginia has now won nine-straight games against James Madison, and 21 of the last 23 against the Dukes.
Virginia will return to Atlantic Coast Conference play this weekend with a three-game home series against Boston College (6-8). Friday’s series opener is scheduled for a 4 p.m. first pitch while games two (March 17) and three (March 18) will both begin at 1 p.m.