The Hoos have had it rough all year long. High expectations. Toughest conference in the country. Difficult non-conference games. Taxing ACC tournament. Why should the Regional be any different?
Let’s take a look at the games that the Cavs had to play to get to the Super Regional.
Game 1: Virginia vs. VCU
This one was played out as advertised. Virginia jumped out 7-1 lead and knocked out the Rams’ ace Cutler-Voltz. But as we predicted, Winiarski gave up a few runs in the 5 and let VCU back into the game 7-4. But Wilson and Hunt came in and shut down VCU for 5 innings while the Hoos teed off on the Ram relief. The good: Hitting looked great. Parker and Hicks went deep and it seemed like everyone had a hit sometime during the game. Actually, every starter had at least one. The bad: Winiarski had a rough outing, only lasting four innings and allowing 4 runs. In the search for the “if necessary” Game 3 pitcher, he did not help his stock.
Game 4: Virginia vs. Ole Miss
Well this is the one everyone was waiting for. The Hoos looked like they were going to coast again by going up 3-0, but Ole Miss scored 3 in the top of the 3rd to tie it up. From that point on, Virginia flipped the switch and started firing on all cylinders. Even though Hultzen got roughed up for 6 runs, by that point, the Hoos had already scored 11 runs en route to a 13-7 victory. The good: The bottom of the lineup. Valdes and Barr went 6-for-8 with 6 RBI. A key to the Hoos run last year was production up and down the lineup, and this is the time of year that Valdes really shines. The bad: I hate to say it but it was Hultzen. The line: 6 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 3 K, 3 BB. This was the third straight game where Danny didn’t “have it”. If they are going to make it any further in this tourney, Hultzen has got to pitch better.
Game 6: St. John’s vs. Virginia
This should have been the Hoos swan song. With 2 wins under their belt and looking to close out the Regional, all they needed to do was to beat St. John’s, who defeated Ole Miss earlier in the day 20-16 in one of the craziest regional games of all time. With their pin depleted and starting their #4 pitcher against Morey, this should have been it, right? Nope. Virginia came out flat and fell down 2-0, but after a huge 5th, took the lead 5-2. But the Johnny’s hit 2 more 2-run homeruns, including one in the bottom of the 8th which put the Red Storm ahead for good. The good: Even though Morey gave up 4 runs, it was really off of two hits, and he left with the lead in a 5-4 game, which should have been enough. The bad: You could blame the lineup for being shut out the last 5 1/3, but I’m giving this to the decision not to walk Baltz with 2 outs and a man on first. You’re up by one facing the only big bat on the team and a base to give. I understand its not the pros and anyone can get a hit at anytime, but (1) you have to play the percentages, even if they are great and (2) since your not the home team in this game, it was an all or nothing situation anyways with the way the Hoos had been hitting anyways.
Game 7: Virginia vs. St. John’s
With 24 hours to think about what happened, the Hoos got back on the field ready to do battle with the Red Storm for the chance to go to the super regional. Virginia turns to their 1st year pitcher Kline to do battle with St. John’s ace freshman Hanson. And Kline looked good through 5 innings, allowing only one run, while the Hoos manage to scrap out a run each of the first 4 innings. But Kline loads the bases in the 6th and O’Connor turns to his closer Arico to come in a pitch out of the jamb. He gets the final two outs of the inning, but the Red Storm plate 2 to cut the lead to 4-3. But that was the closest they got all night. The Hoos score once more in the 7th and hold on to the win 5-3. The good: Give it to Kline. If your looking for a pitcher in the super regionals for Game 3, I would think you would have to turn to him. He just wins. Also credit Arico for the longest save of his career, 4 2/3. The bad: In the 7th inning, the Hoos had the bases juiced with no outs with Parker up. He hit a sac fly and plated Werman from 3rd. Okay, not bad. But then Hicks hits into a 6-4 DP to end the inning. Again, if they are to survive the next round, they have got to cut down on the runners left on base.
So the Hoos will play Oklahoma on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday in a best of three series. We will look at this series latter in the week. But I need an EKG after watching this one so, for now, congrats Virginia.