CHARLOTTESVILLE — An 18-hour rain delay extended Virginia’s season after two days of mostly forgettable baseball to start its NCAA super regional.
But when the tarp finally came off at Davenport Field on Monday afternoon, the inclement weather offered little reprieve from the cavalcade of errors and missed chances that ultimately sank the Cavaliers’ hopes of advancing to the College World Series for the third time in five years.
Despite a valiant ninth-inning comeback attempt, Virginia fell to Mississippi State, 6-5, in Game 2 of their best-of-three series, completing a two-game sweep that sent the Bulldogs back to Omaha for the first time since 2007. Play had been suspended Sunday night due to heavy rain and lightning with Mississippi State leading 5-3and no outs in the bottom of the seventh inning.
The game-winning run came once the contest re-started. With Virginia closer Kyle Crockett back on the mound after throwing 44 pitches Sunday, right fielder Joe McCarthy, the ACC freshman of the year, committed his first error of the season trying to field a leadoff double by Bulldogs star Hunter Renfroe.
The miscue allowed Renfroe to advance to third base, and he crossed home plate two batters later after McCarthy couldn’t catch a sinking line drive by Mississippi State’s C.T. Bradford, one of 30 hits the Bulldogs (48-18) collected in two games facing Virginia’s pitchers.
Shortstop Adam Frazier, first baseman Wes Rea and Renfroe — the No. 13 overall pick in last week’s MLB draft — were a combined 17 of 27 at the plate and accounted for 10 RBI. The Cavaliers, meanwhile, didn’t help their cause with seven errors that resulted in seven unearned runs during the super regional.
“You cannot win this time of the year unless you pitch and play good defense, and we didn’t do that,” Virginia Coach Brian O’Connor said after watching the Cavaliers (50-12) drop two straight home games for the first time all season. “They were on pitches that typically we have seen guys swing and miss at. . . . It just felt like in the two-game series, you couldn’t get them out.”
But down 6-3 entering the ninth inning, Virginia nearly completed an improbable rally against vaunted Mississippi State closer Jonathan Holder (17 saves and a 1.17 ERA entering Monday).
The Cavaliers scored two runs in the frame, the first coming when McCarthy legged out an infield single that scored third baseman Kenny Towns. After hitting a solo home run Sunday, center fielder Brandon Downes then plated another run when Holder slipped trying to corral a flip from Rea and committed an error on a routine grounder.
But with two runners in scoring position, Virginia designated hitter Derek Fisher grounded out to third to end the game.
“Unfortunately, we just ran out of outs,” said catcher Nate Irving, who had a two-run double in the sixth inning Sunday.
Reality set in quickly for losing pitcher Scott Silverstein (four earned runs in 31 / 3 innings Sunday) once Mississippi State finished its dogpile celebration. With more heavy rain following an emotional postgame news conference in which Silverstein needed to be consoled by Irving, the redshirt senior from Brookeville walked out to the Davenport Field pitcher’s mound all alone and toed the rubber one last time.
His college career was over, and so too were Virginia’s dreams of another College World Series appearance.
●The threat of bad weather has forced the postponement of Monday night’s final game in the South Carolina-North Carolina super regional series. The deciding game in the best-of-three series is scheduled for Tuesday at noon.