Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cavs' backs put to wall after 7-1 loss to South Carolina

Doug Doughty

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OMAHA, Neb. — Virginia’s baseball team learned in the NCAA super regionals that there’s no such thing as a lost cause.

However, that’s not a theory you’d want to test too often.

The Cavaliers gave up three unearned runs in the first inning Tuesday night and never recovered in a 7-1 loss to defending champion South Carolina in the College World Series.

The Gamecocks (52-14) scored five runs before Virginia got its first hit and stand as the only team in Bracket Two with a 2-0 record.

Virginia (55-11) now must beat California on Thursday night to get another crack at South Carolina.

UVa had opened play Sunday with a 4-1 victory over California but wasn’t nearly as sharp Tuesday.

Cavaliers’ starting pitcher Will Roberts retired the first two batters without incident and was on the verge of a scoreless, eight-pitch inning when South Carolina’s Christian Walker grounded to third.

The ball bounced off the chest of Steven Proscia, who was charged with an error, and the Gamecocks responded that with three straight hits, two of them run-scoring doubles.

Virginia possibly could have avoided a third run when South Carolina’s Adrian Morales took a wide turn following a single, but first baseman Jared King threw the ball past Roberts, who was covering.

Normally sure-handed UVa also had a passed ball before the inning ended, and Roberts never found a rhythm. Before his shortest outing of the season ended after 3 13 innings, he had given up eight hits.

South Carolina starter Colby Holmes had pitched to one batter over the minimum before UVa catcher John Hicks hit a home run to left with one out in the bottom of the fourth.

The Cavaliers could have made things interesting in the fifth, when they loaded the bases against Holmes, who subsequently was pulled by South Carolina manager Ray Tanner.

With Hicks standing in the on-deck circle, UVa’s John Barr tapped the ball to reliever John Taylor, who started an inning-ending, 1-2-3 double play. It was the only time Barr had hit into a double play all season until he grounded into another DP in the eighth.

South Carolina entered the game with a lineup that included six starters hitting under .300 and the Gamecocks scored one run — the game-winner — over the last eight innings Sunday night in a 5-4 victory over Texas A&M.

Tuesday night’s game was delayed 68 minutes by a rain delay, but the Cavaliers should have been used to interruptions. There were two lengthy rain delays in the Charlottesville Super Regional, including one that lasted more than four hours, and play was halted for seven hours in a UVa-Miami game in the ACC Tournament.

Oddly, Roberts was the Cavaliers’ starter in that game and was unaffected by the delay, returning to the mound after an afternoon siesta. He had never pitched in an NCAA Tournament game until this year, but was sharp in the Charlottesville Super Regional, when he left with the score 1-1 in UVa’s third game with UC Irvine.

The Cavaliers trailed 2-1 in that game before rallying for two runs with the bases empty and two out.

Virginia’s postseason has been marked by an ability to score runs with two outs, but it was the Gamecocks that showed that ability Tuesday. Four of their first five runs came after two were out.

One of the biggest blows of the night was a two-out RBI double by junior clean-up hitter Jackie Bradley Jr. after Walker had reached first on Proscia’s error.

It was the first RBI since April 19 for Bradley, who had missed 26 consecutive games after suffering a tendon injury to his left wrist. Bradley, named most outstanding player in last year’s College World Series, returned to the Gamecocks’ lineup Sunday night.

Bradley, a graduate of Prince George High School outside Petersburg, had some familiarity with Roberts from the AAU circuit while they were in high school. He recently was chosen by the Boston Red Sox in the supplemental round that follows the first round of the Major League Baseball draft.

After the early South Carolina barrage, Virginia got some good work from its relievers, most notably freshman left-hander Kyle Crockett, who allowed one baserunner in two scoreless innings.

Crockett, who had faced two batters in the first two weekends of NCAA play, lowered his ERA to 1.61 in 26 appearances.

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