CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA – After watching Mississippi State take the Charlottesville Super Regional and advance to Omaha last season, the Virginia Cavaliers reversed that outcome this time around. Behind a dazzling outing from Josh Sborz and a strong attack on offense, the Cavaliers upended Maryland by an 11-2 score on Monday and vaulted themselves into the College World Series for the third time in program history.
The Terrapins gave the starting nod to Bobby Ruse, who despite having started four games this season is primarily utilized as a bullpen stopper. Nevertheless, Ruse’s services would not suffice for long, as the Cavaliers offense chased the junior right-hander from the game early in the third inning.
Virginia commenced their attack by way of a two-out rally in the bottom of the first, as Derek Fisher singled to center to plate Daniel Pinero from second. Kenny Towns followed by ripping a two-run triple off the wall in left, plating both Joe McCarthy and Fisher for the second and third runs of the inning.
Ruse settled down for a 1-2-3 second, but was greeted once again by the heavy bat of Towns in the third. With the bases loaded, Towns delivered with a two-run single to left to plate both Pinero and McCarthy, the decisive blow that called for Ruse’s exit from the game.
However, Tayler Stiles’ entree to the game was met with a walk to John La Prise, loading the bases once again for the Hoos. Brandon Downs followed with a grounder up the middle, forcing shortstop Blake Schmit to make a behind the back flip to Brandon Lowe at second to no avail, as Fisher scored on the play to extend Virginia’s lead to six runs.
While the Virginia offense made their contributions early, sophomore right-hander Sbora brought his best stuff to the mound. After starting the game with a pair of free passes, Sborz buckled down and induced a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning and quickly jumped into cruise control.
Sborz proceeded to throw six additional scoreless frames to keep the Maryland offense off balance and in turn keep Virginia’s 6-0 lead unscathed. Sborz displayed great command on the evening, pounding down in the zone with his fastball and missing bats with a wipeout slider that accounted for seven of his nine strikeouts.
The Virginia sophomore appeared poised on the rubber, getting ahead in the count early (registering first pitch strikes on 18 of the 27 batters he faced) and falling behind in the count just once, a 2-0 count to Kevin Martir in the top of the seventh, who fouled out to Mike Papi at first to end the inning and cap a dazzling outing for Sborz.
As for Stiles, the Maryland righty settled in and turned in quite the strong relief outing, tossing 4 1/3 scoreless innings of two-hit ball before entering the eighth. At this point, everything went wrong for the Terrapins.
After walking Robbie Coman to load the bases with one out, Stiles was pulled in favor of closer Kevin Mooney. Brandon Cogswell greeted Mooney with a base hit up the middle, scoring La Prise and Downes, while Pinero followed with a two-run double to right that scored a pair of runs.
Mike Papi approached the plate having been the only Virginia starter without a hit, but as you would have it, Papi ripped a double to right that plated Pinero from second and put the Hoos up by an 11-2 score.
It was all, but cemented for the Cavaliers, as Nick Howard returned from the eighth and finished off the game by fanning Charlie White to seal the 11-2 victory and the Charlottesville Super Regional. Brian O’Connor’s crew will make the coveted trip to Omaha for the third time in program history (first since 2011), all of which have come under the helm of O’Connor.