The clock stuck midnight on the east coast and just like Cinderella the Virginia Cavaliers rushed home.
A three-seed in Regionals, Virginia was a long shot to make the College World Series, but now they’re sitting at 2-0 in Omaha after beating the Florida Gators 1-0 on Monday night.
Starters A.J. Puk and Brandon Waddell were baffling hitters all night, with Puk overpowering batters with a fastball in the mid 90s and Waddell looking like Tom Glavine, mixing his pitches and painting the corners.
The two starters traded zeros and sat down 17-consecutive batters at one point in the game. That all changed shortly after midnight when Matt Thaiss singled up the middle with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning. Kenny Towns followed up with a single of his own and an wide throw from Puk drew Pete Alonso off the base, allowing Pavin Smith to load the bases.
Kevin O’Sullivan called in closer Taylor Lewis into the one out, bases loaded jam but Lewis would surrender a sacrifice fly to Robbie Coman.
Waddell took the run in the sixth inning and shut the Gators down in the seventh.
“Sometimes you just gotta credit the pitcher. I’m not gonna fault our guys,” O’Sullivan said. “You gotta remember he’s a fifth round pick, he beat Vanderbilt last year. He was on. We ran across a really good pitcher tonight.”
Waddell did find some trouble in the eighth inning. Dalton Guthrie drew a leadoff walk and Ryan Larson singled into center field to give Florida runners on the corners with no outs and the top of the order coming up. Virginia turned to their closer Josh Sborz.
Sborz faced Harrison Bader and left a slider up in the zone. The junior outfielder squared the ball up and hit it as hard as he could. The ball found Sborz’s glove and took it off the pitcher’s left hand. The ball trickled a few feet away and Sborz was able to fire to second base to get a force out.
Richie Martin came up and O’Sullivan elected not to try and manufacture a run with a squeeze bunt, saying the Gators wouldn’t play for a tie being the visitors. The move turned sour when Martin lined out to second and Josh Tobias grounded out to second to end the threat. Florida went quietly in the ninth inning to end their 10-game winning streak and set up a rematch with Miami on Wednesday.
“Everyone’s disappointed but we’ve been here before,” O’Sullivan said. “We came back to win four straight games in the SEC Tournament.”