CHARLOTTESVILLE — Virginia baseball Coach Brian O’Connor knows by now anxiety is to be expected this time of year.
So as he lay in bed Saturday night, his team one loss from the end of its season, he took notice when a feeling of serenity came over him. Instead of lamenting 14 stranded base runners from that day’s loss, he felt only calm about Sunday’s second game of the best-of-three NCAA super regional against Maryland, knowing his lineup would deliver with the season in the balance.
The Cavaliers backed up his premonition, securing a 7-3 victory over Maryland to even the series at Davenport Field. Virginia will face the Terrapins on Monday at 7 p.m. in a deciding Game 3 with a spot in next week’s College World Series on the line.
The Cavaliers collected 17 hits, tied for the second most the program has accrued in an NCAA tournament game, just one day after they were unable to find the key hit in Game 1.
The game was tied at 1 in the sixth when Virginia’s Kenny Towns doubled and reached third on an error. He scored on John La Prise’s groundout to give the Cavaliers a lead.
Virginia (48-14) broke the game open with a three-run seventh.
Daniel Pinero started the rally with a leadoff single, and Towns and Brandon Downes added RBI singles.
Virginia added insurance runs in the eighth and ninth innings.
Maryland starter Mike Shawaryn, a freshman who led the ACC in wins (11), allowed a career-high 12 hits and tied his career high by giving up five earned runs.
“Our coaching staff had so much confidence in us today coming into the game,” said Cavaliers first baseman Mike Papi, who is batting .550 with six RBI and seven runs scored in five postseason games after going 3 for 5 on Sunday. “They were so confident in us, and with that we were able to stay relaxed and keep our approach.”
Virginia starter Brandon Waddell allowed one run and seven hits over 52 / 3 innings, but O’Connor turned to senior Artie Lewicki to help the Cavaliers escape their most serious jam of the day. Ordinarily the team’s No. 3 starter, Lewicki took the mound with runners on first and second and Virginia nursing a 2-1 lead to deliver a three-pitch strikeout. Lewicki pumped his fists as he returned to the dugout.
“It had been a while. Bullpen adrenaline is different than starting adrenaline, for sure,” said Lewicki, who secured the final 10 outs of the game in his first appearance out of the bullpen since April 8.
“[Monday] we have an opportunity to show what a complete pitching staff we have,” added O’Connor, who made the decision to stick with Lewicki because “we’re in a one-game season now.”
O’Connor and Maryland Coach John Szefc initially declined to reveal their starting pitchers for Game 3. Virginia’s team Twitter account revealed late Sunday that Josh Sborz will make the start.
Maryland (40-22) scored two runs in the ninth inning but left eight runners on base for the afternoon. Second baseman Brandon Lowe went 3 for 4 with an RBI single that tied the score at 1 in the fifth inning.
“Realistically, it was going to be very difficult to come in here and beat these guys the first two,” Szefc said. “They’re clearly the best team we’ve played all year as far as their raw talent, how they’re coached.”