CHARLOTTESVILLE — They're all gone. Will Roberts, Branden Kline and Kenny Swab. David Coleman, Jared King and Chris Taylor. But Virginia baseball coach Brian O'Connor would be wise to dust off the video from the seminal, ninth-inning comeback that group authored here at Davenport Field three years ago.
It was Game 3 of an NCAA super regional, the same stage O'Connor's Cavaliers will occupy Monday against Maryland. The opponent was perennial power UC Irvine and, down to its final strike, Virginia rallied for a 3-2 victory that carried the program to its second College World Series and set off an on-the-field dogpile never seen in these parts.
For the first time since that evening, the Cavaliers find themselves one win away from Omaha, Neb., and the CWS. They earned that place Sunday with a 7-3 thumping of ACC rival Maryland that knotted this super regional at a game apiece.
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Davenport Field, Charlottesville
Though carryovers in sports are tricky, how both teams performed Sunday bodes well for Virginia on Monday.
The Cavaliers pounded out 17 hits, one shy of their season-high and the most of any Terps opponent this year. Those 17 knocks also matched the program's best in the 52 NCAA tournament games O'Connor has coached in 11 years at U.Va.
Conversely, Maryland, finally, looked like the postseason neophyte that it is. Sloppy baserunning led to a pair of double plays, and freshman pitcher Mike Shawaryn's failure to cover first base on Daniel Pinero's leadoff chopper to the right side ignited Virginia's 3-run seventh inning.
The Terps (40-22) lost for the first time in five NCAA tournament games this spring, stunning for a program absent from the event since 1971. The Cavaliers (48-14) rebounded from Saturday's 5-4 Game 1 defeat as O'Connor anticipated.
"I'll tell you, personally, there's a lot of anxiety this time of year," he said. "I think that's natural. I think that's human nature. I personally today was as calm as I ever have been at this time of year, and that was because I know what these guys are made of, and I know the talent that they have. You have to come beat us because what we're bringing to the table is pretty good."
Sure is. Seven different Cavaliers drove in runs Sunday, and Pinero, first baseman Mike Papi and third baseman Kenny Towns had three hits each. Starter Brandon Waddell worked 5.2 innings before Artie Lewicki, in relief for the first time since April 8, pitched the final 3.1.
Lewicki seemed a natural to start Game 3, and maybe after throwing just 38 pitches Sunday, he'll be available Monday. But Josh Sborz (4-4, 3.38 ERA), a weekend starter for most of the season, is the choice now.
The primary issue with Sborz is control. His 35 walks and seven hit batsmen lead the staff.
Also, he's only pitched 2.2 innings in the last four weeks, those in relief at Wake Forest and versus Florida State in the ACC tournament. But with Omaha at stake, O'Connor will have a host of arms available in pinches, even ace Nathan Kirby and set-up man Whit Mayberry, whose pitch counts Saturday were 88 and 60, respectively.
"Tomorrow we have an opportunity to show what a complete pitching staff we have," O'Connor said.
Maryland coach John Szefc will counter with Bobby Ruse (7-2, 2.77 ERA). Ruse worked 1.2 innings Saturday, yielding one hit and one run while walking two.
Szefc has done a remarkable rebuilding job at Maryland in two years — Virginia didn't reach a super regional until O'Connor's sixth season — and he was in full spin mode after Sunday's setback.
He said Shawaryn pitched better than the numbers — 12 hits and five runs in six innings — showed and that "realistically, it was going to be difficult to come in here and beat these guys the first two."
The Cavaliers are 2-1 in super regional Game 3s under O'Connor, winning 5-1 at Ole Miss in 2009 and losing 11-0 to Oklahoma here in 2010 before the Irvine epic a year later.
What, if anything, might O'Connor share about those experiences with his team prior to Monday's first pitch?
"There won't necessarily be a message or anything learned from the Game 3 super regionals that we've been in," he said.
"Sorry," he said, "I kind of avoided that question. Don't want to give all my secrets away."
Show them the Irvine video, Coach. Much as we writers hate to concede, pictures can inspire more than words.