June 5, 2010

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CBI Live
'Better' Cavaliers Rip Rebels

By Sean Ryan

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder


CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco and his Rebels knew what to expect when they faced top-ranked Virginia Saturday night at Davenport Field.


“They’re a better club than they were last year,” Bianco said Friday night after advancing to meet the Cavaliers, who ended the Rebels’ season last year in the Oxford Super Regional.


Note to the rest of the country: Virginia very much is looking as if it is.


John Barr (above) – the Cavaliers’ nine-hole hitter – went 4 for 4 with four RBI, eighth-hitter Franco Valdes had two hits and two RBI and seventh-hitter Tyler Cannon scored three times as top-ranked Virginia pounded out a 13-7 win over the Rebels before a crowd of 4,801. The Cavaliers, who have won 20 of 22, advance to the Regional final where they will await the winner of Ole Miss and St. John’s.


“They’re better, there’s no doubt,” Bianco said after watching Virginia take an 11-3 lead after four innings Saturday. “Last year when they came into the [Super] Regional, everybody talked about their pitching, their defense and they score enough runs offensively.


“They are a much more complete team. They look like a team that came back from Omaha, returned a lot of people and they’re playing with a lot of confidence.”


For the second night in a row, every starter had at least one hit as the Cavaliers had 17 hits, including five doubles and one triple. Six UVA starters had at least two hits, and seven had at least one RBI.


“Our offense is really locked in right now; they’re really playing with a lot of emotion,” Cavaliers coach Brian O’Connor said. “We’re battling with two strikes. We’re taking advantage of our opportunities. It’s great to see.”


Virginia (49-11) took advantage of a little help from Ole Miss (39-23), which made three errors, including a huge one in the bottom of the third after the Rebels had tied the game at 3 in the top half.


Dan Grovatt tripled, and Steven Proscia (2 for 4, 2 R, RBI) walked to put runners on the corners with one out. Jarrett Parker (2 for 3, 3 R, RBI) doubled in Grovatt to make it 4-3. John Hicks (2 for 5, R, RBI) popped out for the second out.


It appeared Rebels starter Aaron Barrett (7-5) would get out of the inning with a Cannon ground ball to the right side. Second baseman Alex Yarbrough called off first baseman Mike Snyder on the tweener then threw to Barrett covering first, where the right-hander dropped the ball, allowing Proscia to score. Franco Valdes, a .220 hitter who went 2 for 4 with two RBI and is hitting .356 (16 for 45) the past two postseasons, drove in his second run with a single to chase Barrett after only 2.2 innings, and Barr singled in his second run for a 7-3 lead.


“All year when a team scores a couple runs like that, our job as an offense is to respond as soon as possible,” Barr said. “Grind out at-bats, get guys on base, do whatever it takes to drive guys in. I think it’s really important and that’s something that makes our team really special is that we respond in those situations.”


Bianco’s reaction to the Cavaliers’ third-inning answer to the Rebels’ three in the top:

“Pretty deflating, yeah, pretty deflating.”


Barrett’s inconsistent season continued. When he’s been good, he’s been extremely good as he showed in consecutive starts against Arkansas and Alabama, when he allowed one earned run in 14.2 innings. When he’s struggled, he hasn’t lasted long – in his past two starts, he’s allowed 15 runs (11 earned) in 5.1 innings. 


“You can say what you want, but at the end of the day, I just didn’t compete hard enough today,” Barrett said.


Cavaliers ace Danny Hultzen (10-1) was sharp in spots, but the Rebels roughed him up a bit with seven hits and six earned runs in six innings. Taylor Hashman (2 for 5, 2 R, 3 RBI) drove in two as the Rebels tied the game in the third, and Zach Miller (2 for 4) drove in two as they closed to 11-6 with three more in the fifth.


It could have been worse if not for a fantastic catch in center by Parker, who raced to the left-center gap and caught Kevin Mort’s liner in stride before crashing into the wall in the sixth.


“I felt pretty good with my fastball, [but] my change up was a little different than it has been the past few weeks,” Hultzen said. “I couldn’t really throw it for a strike today…for me it’s really important to be able to have that pitch. Without that pitch, you just have to be able to grind through with the other pitches.”


Branden Kline earned his third save with three innings and one run, a Hashman homer just left of center in the seventh.


The Cavaliers moved within one win of their first 50-win season, which would break the school-record they tied Saturday, and a second straight trip to the Super Regionals.


Better than last year? It’s looking that way.



They said it..Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco on having to win three games to win the Regional: “The key is you don't look at it as three games, and I know it sounds like coaches' speak, but it's the truth. You think you've got to get through 27 innings, and 18 of the innings are going to be against those guys, I think sometimes that's a little overwhelming for anybody to think about. Every year somebody comes through the losers' bracket in one of the 16 Regionals and wins. So it's possible, but you gotta play well, you gotta score runs, you gotta pitch well. We've got to play St. John's tomorrow.”


Should Ole Miss get through Sunday, odds are ace Drew Pomeranz would be available to pitch. The same could be said for Kyle Hansen. Pomeranz threw on two days rest last year to get the Rebels to the Super Regionals.


(photos courtesy of UVa Media Relations Office)