CHARLOTTESVILLE – For the better part of two afternoons, the big inning had eluded the Virginia baseball team. The Cavaliers would string hits together – they had at least one in every inning Sunday – only to watch rallies end with little damage inflicted.
But needing a win to extend its season, Virginia’s lineup finally busted out against Maryland’s pitching.
The Cavaliers pulled away from the Terrapins, 7-3, to even their best-of-three super regional series at one game apiece in front of another sold out crowd at Davenport Field. The two teams will face another Monday at 4 with the winner advancing to next week’s College World Series in Omaha.
Virginia started the year atop the national polls and had a national-best eight players chosen in this week’s Major League Baseball draft. But it was a couple less-heralded Cavaliers who jump-started their offense.
Third baseman Kenny Towns and shortstop Daniel Pinero each finished with three hits and figured in prominently when Virginia broke open a close game during a three-run seventh inning. Pinero started the rally with a leadoff single and Towns added an RBI single when Maryland Coach John Szefc brought in reliever Taylor Stiles, one of six pitchers used by the Terrapins Sunday.
Towns also provided the Cavaliers a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning by hitting a leadoff double, taking third base on an error by Maryland left fielder Tim Lewis and scoring on an RBI groundout by designated hitter John La Prise.
Virginia finished the game with 17 hits, adding insurance runs in the eighth and ninth inning courtesy of RBI hits from first baseman Mike Papi and second baseman Branden Cogswell, respectively. Papi is now 11 for 20 (.550) with six RBI and seven runs scored in five postseason games this year.
Cavaliers starter Brandon Waddell allowed just one run and escaped jams in the fourth and fifth inning before senior Artie Lewicki came on in relief to secure the final 13 outs Sunday. Lewicki had been Virginia’s No. 3 starter during the final stretch of the season, but Coach Brian O’Connor left nothing to chance Sunday after the Terrapins beat the Cavaliers, 5-4, in Game 1 of this super regional series.
Maryland scored two runs in the ninth inning, but at that point the Cavaliers’ offense had proven too effective. Second baseman Brandon Lowe finished 3 for 4 at the plate and had the Terrapins’ only other RBI, singling in catcher Kevin Martir to tie the score at 1 in the fifth inning.
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