When Virginia Coach Brian O’Connor sat at the dais for his postgame press conference Tuesday night, he knew that California had won its game earlier in the day. As for the details of the Bears’ victory, he was unaware.
He was, however, well aware of the details that led to Virginia’s 7-1 loss to South Carolina, an outcome that means the Cavaliers will square off against California for the second time in five days in an elimination game Thursday at 7 p.m.
Virginia defeated the Bears, 4-1, on Sunday in its College World Series opener, and the Cavaliers will need to do so again if they want their stay here in Omaha to continue. O’Connor said he had not yet made a decision on which of his pitchers would start Thursday’s contest.
“We’re at the point right now where no matter who we play on Thursday night, it’s about what we do,” O’Connor said. “It’s not about who we play. We did not play the way Virginia has played all year this evening, and no matter whether it was Cal or whoever it is, it’s about us playing the baseball that has gotten us to this point.”
The Cavaliers did not meet that objective Tuesday night. They tallied three errors, marking just the fifth time this season they’d recorded more than two in a single game. Their starting pitching was not sharp. And they were passive at the plate.
The recent offensive struggles of some of the team’s prominent hitters might be most concerning for Virginia at the moment. Since the start of the super regional series against California-Irvine, left fielder John Barr, third baseman Steven Proscia and pitcher/designated hitter Danny Hultzen have hit below .200.
Proscia’s struggles at the plate have stood out the most. After Tuesday night’s 0 for 4 performance, Proscia has not recorded a hit in his last 14 at-bats and has tallied just 2 in his last 18 (.111). This from a guy who bats cleanup, is tied for the team lead in home runs and RBI and was named the ACC tournament’s most valuable player a little more than three weeks ago.
Hultzen, who bats fifth, is 2 for his last 15 at the plate (.133), while Barr, who bats second, is 3 for his last 16 (.188). Barr grounded into two double plays Tuesday night – his first two GDPs of the season.
Next up for the Cavaliers is a California squad known – much like Virginia – for its solid pitching. The Bears used a strong performance from freshman Kyle Porter to defeat Texas A&M, 7-3, on Tuesday.
The winner of Thursday’s game between Virginia and California will advance to play South Carolina on Friday. The loser’s season will come to an end.