Virginia will send senior right-hander Tyler Wilson to the mound to start Thursday night’s College World Series elimination game against California, the team announced Wednesday.
Wilson came on in relief of Virginia’s 4-1 win Sunday over the Bears in the CWS opener and threw 39 pitches in two and one-thirds innings of work. He allowed three hits and one run during his third relief outing of the season.
“This is why this is what my plan was with the pitching coming into the College World Series was to throw him out of the bullpen on Sunday and know that he could start game three,” Virginia Coach Brian O’Connor said. “I was obviously hoping it would be the 2-0 game to pitch us into the finals, but it’s not.
“And now Tyler Wilson’s in a position to get us off to a good start in a game to give us a chance to move on. He’s been in that position a lot for us this year and has responded every time.”
For most of the spring, Wilson has served as a member of Virginia’s starting rotation, and he will enter Thursday’s contest with a 9-0 record and a 2.33 ERA.
Wilson’s counterpart from California will be right-hander Dixon Anderson, a junior who was selected in the ninth round of this year’s MLB draft by the Washington Nationals. While Anderson’s numbers aren’t all that impressive (4-3, 3.90 ERA), he turned in a solid performance in his last outing, which also happened to be an elimination game.
Anderson last pitched against Rice in the regional round of the NCAA tournament. He gave up two hits, three walks and three runs (one earned) in four and two-thirds innings of what became a 6-3 California win.
Neither Anderson nor Wilson is likely to turn in extended outings Thursday. Anderson has averaged just more than five innings per start this season. Wilson has averaged just more than six innings per start, though he’ll be pitching somewhat on short rest. That’s less of an issue for Wilson than it might before other Virginia starters considering Wilson spent most of his collegiate career prior to this season as a reliever.
Wilson said Wednesday the coaches had not discussed with him any sort of pitch limit for Thursday night, and O’Connor said he does not expect Wilson to be fatigued in light of Wilson’s appearance Sunday.
Still, O’Connor made sure to get several of his relievers some work near the end of Tuesday night’s 7-1 loss to South Carolina in order to introduce them to such a grand stage under non-pressure circumstances.
After starter Will Roberts lasted just three and one-thirds innings, right-hander Cody Winiarski (one and two-thirds innings), left-hander Kyle Crockett (two innings), right-hander Justin Thompson (one and one-thirds innings), left-hander Scott Silverstein (one-thirds of an inning) and right-hander Whit Mayberry (one-thirds of an inning) all made appearances.
On Tuesday night, “I got some guys in the game on the mound because I know we’re going to count on them at some point from this point forward,” O’Connor said. “And just to get them out there and get them that experience of pitching in the College World Series, you know, all those guys will be ready to go starting” Thursday night.
O’Connor said left-hander Danny Hultzen, who started Sunday’s win and threw 113 pitches in the process, would not be available to pitch out of the bullpen Thursday. The earliest Hultzen would be available, O’Connor said, would be Friday, and it is likely Hultzen would start Friday’s game, should the Cavaliers’ season still be alive at that point.
In order for that scenario to play out, Virginia first must put away California.
“Everything that’s happened up to this point in the season is out the window,” Wilson said. “There are guys that can be superstars in the regular season and fold up in the postseason. I think we have guys with some pretty special character that step up in big games like this.
“We have a lot of big-time players, and I’m excited to see what the guys do tomorrow with their backs up against the wall. I know that they’re going to come out swinging and leave everything they have out there, and hopefully I can lead the way.”