Feb. 21, 2010

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CBI Live
From safe to sweating, Virginia hangs on at East Carolina

By Michael Perry


(photos by Ian Rogol/TheSabre.com)


GREENVILLE, N.C. — Season-opening series, with a post-season feel.


In an unbelievable four-hour contest that only college baseball could offer, the University of Virginia escaped Greenville with the series. The Cavs rode out a 14-11 win, only secured by a groundout to shortstop by East Carolina’s John Wooten in the bottom of the ninth.


It appeared certain that the No. 3 Cavaliers would go home with their 13-4 lead as they headed into the bottom of the eighth, but the No. 17 Pirates insisted on scoring seven runs in the inning to give Virginia a scare it is sure to remember.


“Poise is so important in college baseball, especially when you play on the road because things are going to happen.” Virginia head coach Brian O’Connor said. “You have to have poise and composure, and fortunately we have a veteran group and they didn’t let it get too far out of hand.”


ECU’s Kyle Roller opened the frame with a stand-up double. Devin Harris and pinch-hitter Chris Gosik would follow as they batted in a run apiece, but Wooten’s two-out, two-run blast to far right field seemed to hint more and more that the impossible could be possible.


Two walks followed Wooten’s second opposite field dinger of the weekend, setting up Dustin Harrington’s screamer down the third base line that plated two more. The Pirates batted around with Roller bringing home Harrington, shrinking the deficit to three.


The Cavs cycled through two pitchers in the eighth alone before bringing in closer Kevin Arico, who tore into the Pirates for four outs to rid Virginia of the looming comeback. Arico forced Harris (1 for 4) into a groundout at second base, stifling the rally.


“He did a tremendous job (last year) and pitched us to Omaha.” O’Connor said of Arico. “I knew when the game got tight we’d definitely have to go with him, and he came in and did a nice job.”


In the top of the ninth, the Cavs’ Chris Taylor produced a lone run off an RBI triple that bounced off the wall in the right-center gap to bring the score to its final 14-11 mark.


Early on, Virginia jumped out front with a six-run second, the first inning of the series to produce more than two runs. John Hicks led off with a double and Keith Werman brought him home with a single. 


Second baseman Werman took advantage of his first start of the season, going 3 for 4 at the dish and providing a respectable defensive performance.


“He is a tough little player,” O’Connor said. “He just really knows how to play and it just creates great options for us.”


Werman was then plated by Phil Gosselin who cranked a 1-2 pitch over left-center at Clark LeClair, known as the Jungle.


Virginia’s Steven Proscia (left) later scored another runner to end the short-lived first start of ECU right-hander Brad Mincey.


Mincey, a staple among the Pirates’ pitching staff last season, was their only 10-win starter a year ago.


When asked about Mincey’s performance ECU head coach Billy Godwin responded positively.


“He wasn’t on today and that’s unfortunate,” Godwin said. “He has done some great things for us at a high level and he’ll bounce back.”


In the pitching department, both teams exhausted all resources, with the Pirates using seven arms and the Cavs working six of their own. Neal Davis (1-0) (right) allowed one hit and no runs in 2.1 innings of relief to earn the win.


Though unusual, the thrilling finish proved to be nothing less than the appropriate tight-wire conclusion to a great matchup.


ECU now looks forward to its first midweek matchup as it takes on Old Dominion at home on Tuesday, while Virginia will host George Washington on Wednesday for its home opener.