June 4, 2010

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CBI Live
Hicks, Cavaliers Dance Past Rams

By Sean Ryan

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder


CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Ever since he was a little kid, John Hicks (right) has been known by friends and family as Jazz.


“It was a nickname from my dad,” said Hicks, Virginia’s sophomore Mr. Utility. “When I was little, I used to dance all the time. So whenever music came on, I would dance.”


Hicks, who admitted that Miles Davis rings a bell but that he doesn’t know much jazz, danced around the bases to the tune of a 4-for-5 day with double, homer and four RBI Friday afternoon as the top-ranked Cavaliers strutted past Virginia Commonwealth University 15-4.


Hicks was part of a three-run third, hitting a long fly ball to the track in right that was misplayed by John Lenherr. Tyler Cannon (3 for 4, 2 R, 3 RBI) followed with a double and scored on Franco Valdes’ single. Valdes later scored on a double by Phil Gosselin (2 for 4).


In the fourth, Hicks singled to start a four-run frame, with two runs scoring on singles by Cannon and John Barr and two more coming on a Dan Grovatt (3 RBI) double. In his final three at-bats, Hicks hit a laser just over the wall in left – which followed a Jarrett Parker towering homer to right – doubled in two and singled in one.


“He seems to get big hits in big games,” said VCU coach Paul Keyes, who saw Hicks plenty at Goochland High School just outside of Richmond. “He’s a great athlete. I’ll take him tomorrow if he wants to play for us.”


The Cavaliers (48-11) aren’t likely to let that happen even though they pack plenty of other power throughout the lineup. Every Virginia starter had at least one hit, and five players scored two or more runs.


Virginia needed the run support in the middle innings as the Rams (34-25-1) got to starter Cody Winiarksi in the fourth and fifth innings.


VCU loaded the bases in the fourth on two walks and a bunt single. Paul Nice, a sophomore who didn’t land with the Rams until late in the summer before his freshman year, hit a long shot to the gap that was hauled in by Gosselin in left to cut the lead to 3-1. But Winiarski got Taylor Perkins to bounce to Cannon at short, who fed a lightning-quick Keith Werman (right) at second for a double play to save a run.


After the Rams scored four to make it 7-1, Joe Van Meter, who ranks in the top 15 in the country in hitting and went 2 for 5, singled in a pair to make it 7-3.  Virginia turned to top set-up man Tyler Wilson, but Hicks made an error on an end-of-the-bat squibber for another run. Wilson struck out Lenherr before the Cavaliers defense stepped up big again. Proscia made a slick backhand stab at third that started a 5-4-3 double play, with Werman again executing a perfect turn at second.


“Our defense was spectacular today,” Cavaliers coach Brian O’Connor said. “That’s the kind of defense you need to play to win this time of year.”


Added Keyes: “I don’t think anyone in the county turns those two double plays as quick as he does.”


With the Rams scrapping at 7-4, Parker greeted reliever Kyle Pelchy with a homer that likely pushed 450 feet to straight right. Hicks made it back-to-back jacks and the Cavaliers’ answer staggered VCU.


Wilson (8-3) (left) struck out the side in the sixth, and Hicks added his two-run single to knock the Rams out. For added insult Hicks made a nifty pick on a hard shot down the line, tagged first and threw to Cannon covering second for slick 3-6 (tag) double play.


About the only thing that didn’t go according to plan for Virginia was the fact that Wilson threw three innings after Winiarski couldn’t get out of the fifth.


“I would have liked to see Cody Winiarski go deeper in the ballgame,” said O’Connor, adding that he felt it was a crucial part of the game when he summoned Wilson, who threw 37 pitches. “Honestly, I was hoping that we didn’t have to pitch Tyler Wilson for three innings. But we did. Fortunately he was able to conserve his pitches.”


The Cavaliers took their first step toward returning to Omaha. And it surely helped to do it at home, where they’ve lost their past two Regionals.


“When you’re playing at home, and everyone says you’re supposed to win…it is nice to get the first one out of the way,” O’Connor said.


(photos courtesy of UVs Media Relations Office)