By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 15, 2010; D04
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- There's no planned way to act when a season ends sooner than expected, so a few Virginia players who might have played their final game in a Cavaliers uniform Monday night huddled together in the outfield after their teammates dispersed.
Appreciative fans serenaded them with chants of "U-V-A!" although that did not alter what happened in the previous three hours, when Virginia suffered a humiliating 11-0 loss to Oklahoma, leaving it one game shy of reaching the College World Series.
"You might say, 'You didn't handle [the pressure] this weekend.' I didn't look at it that way," Coach Brian O'Connor said. "It's one weekend. We didn't get the job done, and they beat us two games in a row, and they beat us good. But it wasn't because our players choked or our players couldn't handle the pressure. It had nothing to do with it. We ran into a hot team that just had our number."
The 2010 season was never supposed to be about what happened in 2009, but that was a shadow the team could not avoid. It's difficult to reach the College World Series, O'Connor always said. Taste it once, though, and you want to go back.
The 2010 team returned almost every contributor from 2009, remained ranked among the nation's top five teams all season while setting a school record for victories and yearned for another June in Omaha. O'Connor praised the group for how it handled the pressure all spring.
"Even though we didn't make it to Omaha, we won 51 games, we set record crowds throughout the whole season," senior shortstop Tyler Cannon said. "Even though we didn't get to Omaha, we still did real well, and that's what you got to take from the season."
The Cavaliers (51-14) won the weekend opener before losing consecutive games for the first time all season. Virginia never had a runner in scoring position, recording only five hits while struggling against Oklahoma starter Bobby Shore (8 innings, 4 hits, 0 runs, 5 strikeouts). The defense and pitching also failed the Cavaliers, and it quickly became apparent that the Sooners (49-16) would secure the bid.
The night soured in the top of the first inning, when Branden Kline's two-out, full-count pitch was called a ball. Two pitches later, Oklahoma slugger Cody Reine blasted a home run for a 3-0 lead. Monday marked his second consecutive two-homer night.
O'Connor knew from the minutes after Virginia was eliminated last season that the expectations would ascend this year. The players now leaving were instrumental in building the program from a middle-of-the-pack ACC program to a national program.
"We've all done that together," junior Tyler Wilson said. "We all have a piece in it. Sometimes it's tough to know it's that guy's last time playing in a Virginia uniform."
Those players celebrated the 2009 super regional in a dog pile on their opponent's field. On Monday, it was Oklahoma celebrating in Charlottesville. The season was supposed to be an encore. Instead, the Cavaliers experienced unprecedented success before falling short in June.
"We didn't make it to Omaha," O'Connor said, "but there's a lot of great teams that didn't make it to Omaha, either."