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Around the Bases
Roberts Perfect for Top-Ranked
By Sean Ryan
much of the past two weeks, Virginia has been a hotbed of
college basketball with five teams reaching the NCAA tournament,
two – the University of Richmond and VCU – reaching the Sweet 16
and the Rams making the Final Four.
For a night, college basketball took a back seat
to college baseball.
Virginia junior right-hander Will Roberts, a
native of Richmond, tossed the first perfect game in school
history Tuesday, striking out 10 in a 2-0 shutout of George
Washington at Davenport Field. Roberts needed 98 pitches to
complete the first Division I perfect game since 2002 (Eric
Brandon of Auburn vs. Murray State) and only the eighth
nine-inning perfect game and 19th overall in D-I college
“I think a couple of the guys were pulling them
up in the clubhouse,” Roberts said of his place in history
Tuesday night after celebrating with family and fellow pitchers
at Littlejohn’s. “It hasn’t sunk in yet. I’m sure in the morning
when I wake up, I’ll feel a little bit different.”
Roberts, 5-0 with a 1.13 ERA, 41 strikeouts and
three walks in 39.2 innings this year, improved to 12-0 in his
Cavaliers career with his first complete game. His gem
overshadowed another milestone – top-ranked Virginia’s 2,000th
baseball win in school history.
“He was unbelievable,” Cavaliers coach Brian
O’Connor said. “He had a good fastball with location all night
long really. He was still throwing 88 to 91 mph in the eighth
and ninth inning…he was really on.
“He’s pitched great all year. Tonight he pitched
like he has been pitching, but he was a little better.”
Roberts said he primarily threw fastballs for the
first few innings, mixing in an occasional slider. As the game
wore on, he worked his slider and curve ball more.
“I didn’t throw a single changeup, which has
usually been my best pitch in the past,” he said.
The Cavaliers (25-2) gave him all the support he
needed in the fourth inning, when fellow Richmonder Reed
Gragnani drove in a run on a fielder’s choice, and battery-mate
Kenny Swab scored on a balk by Colonials reliever Kenny O’Brien.
Roberts, who yielded only one ball to the
outfield all evening, began thinking something special might be
in the works in the middle innings.
“Around the fifth inning, is this really
happening?” he said. “In the seventh and eighth, you just have
to think: what do I have to do to finish this out?”
Added Jeff Roberts, Will’s father: “About the
sixth inning, I started thinking that he had a pretty good
chance at it. Having seen him pitch so much over the years, I
could just tell he had absolute command of the baseball.”
Working with Swab, Roberts got several nice plays
from second baseman Keith Werman, including a couple tough slow
rollers that O’Connor said Werman made look easy. In the eighth,
Tyler McCarthy ripped a shot back up the middle that Roberts
deflected with his shin and pounced on the ball to keep the
perfect game intact.
“Keith Werman made a couple plays coming in on
slow rollers that were close plays,” Roberts said. “Kenny Swab
really hung in there with me. A couple times I went 3-0, and he
really pulled me through.”
With two outs, Roberts got Ryan Thomas to bounce
out to Werman at second for only the second perfect game in ACC
A few moments later, Roberts’ Cavaliers teammates
hoisted him atop their shoulders and carried him off the field.
“I’ve never been a part of anything like that,”
Roberts said. “I really didn’t know what was going to happen.”
Perfection does that.
(photo courtesy of Virginia Media