Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Strike Three

There is no joy in Charlottesville but not because the great Casey struck out, but rather ran out of gas.

Senior pitcher Casey Lambert, the all-time ACC saves leader; was asked to go out and do the impossible. Propel Virginia to its first ever super regionals after pitching 6.2 innings on Saturday in a marathon game with the Oregon State Beavers. Lambert didn't have it and even though Virginia had an explosive second inning to take a 3-2 lead, they were left with a 7-3 defeat in front of a disillusioned crowd of 2,389 at Davenport Field Tuesday afternoon against OSU.

The result is a disappointment for a team built for Omaha. However, the injury list soon began to pile up at the end of the season. It began with superstar shortstop Greg Miclat, who battled a shoulder injury throughout the year, and eventually resulted in a surgery. Then on Saturday, Brandon Marsh and Brandon Guyer both were afflicted with the injury bug. One Cavalier went down with a bum wrist after being hit by a pitch, the other after a dive into home plate separated his shoulder. The result stripped Virginia of its primary offensive weapons. It is difficult enough to knock out the defending national champions at full strength but a depleted squad had an arduous task indeed. The Beavers simply had a little more mental toughness. Monday night, five outs away from the next round and a chance to host the Michigan Wolverines, Virginia simply could not put away a scrappy ball club. The play of the series came at the top of the 8th inning when Chris Hopkins belted one deep to cut the Beaver deficit to only one. This was only the second home run on the season for Hopkins and that play shifted the momentum of not only the game but the series.

While Hopkins was overachieving, Virginia's Sean Doolittle was struggling. Only 1 for 12 against the Beavers, Doolittle had a strong pitching performance against Lafayette but could not muster the needed offense after the injury bug plagued the Cavaliers. David Adams led the way with a .429 average but Tim Henry was the man with the key hits in the series. However, Virginia still had no players with more than one extra base hit and that lack of firepower is why Oregon State will live to see another game and Virginia must sit back and watch the CWS on TV.

Virginia ends the season with an impressive record of 45-16. Virginia spent almost the entire season ranked in the top 10, they were one game away from the ACC championship contest and they hosted a regional for the third time, and second in a row. Yet Virginia STILL has not made out of the first round of the playoffs and while Coach Brian O'Connor has completely revitalized the program, this albatross looks to remain an issue until it is finally resolved.

More on this later....


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