Vir­ginia headed to CWS

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - VIR­GINIA 5, MARY­LAND 4 BY IS­ABELLE KHURSHUDYAN is­abelle.khurshudyan@wash­

Cavs score three runs in ninth to beat Mary­land and clinch trip to Omaha.

CHAR­LOTTESVILLE — As Vir­ginia fresh­man Ernie Cle­ment walked to the plate, the arc of the Cava­liers’ base­ball sea­son per­fectly aligned with this mo­ment. Vir­ginia had strug­gled early, stayed within reach and now seemed poise for a dra­matic rally.

Start­ing pitcher Bran­don Wad­dell started pac­ing in the bullpen, tak­ing ad­van­tage of his spa­cious dwelling. Trail­ing Mary­land by one run in the bot­tom of the ninth, Vir­ginia’s three base run­ners fixed their eyes on Cle­ment.

The ninth hit­ter in the or­der, Cle­ment smacked a break­ing ball down the left field line, and Vir­ginia’s dugout spilled onto the field in cel­e­bra­tion. Cle­ment was am­bushed at sec­ond base, dog­piled so abra­sively by his team­mates that he had a scratch across his fore­head as a proud battle scar af­ter­ward.

The script of Vir­ginia’s 5- 4 walk-off win against Mary­land in Game 2 of the Char­lottesville Su­per Re­gional per­fectly re­flected the Cava­liers’ sea­son, which had been marred by in­con­sis­tency be­cause of in­juries and youth, a doubt­ful post­sea­son and then a sur­pris­ing NCAA tour­na­ment run to the Col­lege World Se­ries.

“This is the great­est feel­ing ever,” Cle­ment said.

Af­ter left-handed re­liever Robert Gal­li­gan con­founded the Cava­liers for 7 2/3 innings, not al­low­ing a run, he un­rav­eled in the ninth. He walked Pavin Smith to start the in­ning, then gave up a sin­gle to Rob­bie Co­man. Mary­land Coach John Szefc didn’t pull Gal­li­gan un­til af­ter he walked Joe McCarthy to load the bases.

“What they wanted us to do was to take him out be­cause he ob­vi­ously had kept them off bal­ance for a long pe­riod of time,” Szefc said.

“I think also that in­ning led off with a lefty lead­ing off, so we were go­ing to at least leave him out there to face Smith and see what hap­pened. So that’s what we did.”

Szefc went to closer Kevin Mooney, who had blown a tworun lead Fri­day night. With a 4-2 lead, the bases loaded and no outs, Mooney walked Kevin Do­herty to force home a run, nar­row­ing Mary­land’s lead to one. That set the stage for Cle­ment’s hero­ics.

In the dugout, catcher Matt Thaiss turned to Vir­ginia’s strength and con­di­tion­ing coach and re­marked that Cle­ment looks like Seat­tle Mariners short­stop Chris Tay­lor, who is a U-Va. leg­end for his walk-off hit against UC Irvine in 2011 to ad­vance Vir­ginia to the Col­lege World Se­ries.

“This one, I think, is bet­ter,” Vir­ginia Coach Brian O’Con­nor said.

“I think I’m go­ing to go buy a lot­tery ticket af­ter this,” Thaiss said. “I told Ernie he was go­ing to get up that in­ning and he was go­ing to come up with a big hit. I’m go­ing to do that first.”

Satur­day started with Mary­land’s start­ing pitcher, Ryan Selmer, be­ing chased just a third of an in­ning into his out­ing af­ter giv­ing up two runs. Trail­ing Vir­ginia 2-1, the Ter­rap­ins chipped away at the deficit by putting the lead­off man on five times in the game.

Mary­land took a lead in the fifth when fresh­man Kevin Smith led off with a sin­gle to cen­ter field. Kevin Mar­tir brought him home with a sin­gle to cen­ter two at-bats later. The Ter­rap­ins added an­other run in the eighth on an RBI triple by An­thony Pa­pio.

Wad­dell worked in and out of trou­ble through­out his start for Vir­ginia, walk­ing the first bat­ter of the game and sur­ren­der­ing a run in the first. And though he al­lowed four earned runs on 10 hits, he didn’t let the game get out of reach, prompt­ing O’Con­nor to keep him in for eight innings.

The strug­gles from early in the game, as well as those from ear­lier in the sea­son, were pleas­ant for the Cava­liers to rem­i­nisce about af­ter­ward given the re­sult. Two Vir­ginia play­ers crashed the Cava­liers’ news con­fer­ence to take a selfie with O’Con­nor.

O’Con­nor looked down at his fore­arm and re­al­ized he had scratches from the victory dog pile on the field. Ear­lier, Cle­ment had said the welt on his fore­head from the cel­e­bra­tion was worth it, and the coach, who was un­sure the Cava­liers would even make the tour­na­ment a month ago, seemed to agree.

“I was go­ing to miss out on it this year,” O’Con­nor said.


Mary­land pitcher Kev­inMooney, right, cov­ers his face af­ter giv­ing up a game- and se­ries-end­ing sin­gle.

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