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Cavaliers suffer first loss of season

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Posted: Sunday, March 10, 2013 11:10 pm

Reed Gragnani slid headfirst in a last-ditch effort, but it was to no avail. Virginia’s second baseman was retired. Maryland, in its camouflage uniforms, responded by lining up on the pitcher’s mound and shaking hands. UVa quickly met with each other by its dugout before giving its congratulations to the Terrapins.

In 2013, this is what the Cavaliers losing looks like.

It took nearly a month for such a scene to develop, but the No. 17 Wahoos’ perfect start came to an end on Sunday in a 4-2 defeat before 3,211 at Davenport Field.

“You’re not going to win them all,” said Virginia coach Brian O’Connor after his Cavs dropped to 14-1. “I don’t know a college baseball team that’s gone 56-0 in the regular season.”

Indeed.

Instead, UVa will have to settle for its best start since 2009.

The new result came about due to shoddy defense and struggling offense with runners on-board.

The Wahoos entered the bottom of the ninth inning trailing 4-1, but with the heart of their order due up.

Brandon Downes, a .344 hitter, did his part with an RBI single to score Kenny Towns. Joe McCarthy later continued the threat with a two-out single that moved Nick Howard to third and brought the winning run to the plate in Gragnani.

But the senior grounded out to second to close the book on Virginia’s winning streak and run Sunday’s left-on-base count to 15.

This came a day after UVa scored 10 of their 12 runs with two outs in a doubleheader sweep of Maryland.

“Throughout the whole game, we came up with runners in scoring position — me, myself — and we just kept popping the ball out or striking out or whatever we were doing,” said Downes, who roped his third triple of the season in the third inning. “We had to come through in the clutch and, today, we didn’t do it.”

Howard (2-1) took the loss despite giving up just one earned run and striking out eight in 6 1/3 innings.

Virginia committed three errors, two leading to runs.

“That’s part of the game,” Howard said. “It’s my job to get action early, keep them in the game. I don’t blame them at all. It’s part of the game.”

As are hitters with a batting stance that shades the plate.

The Terrapins’ Kyle Convissar was plunked for the sixth time this season and second this weekend on a Howard pitch in the sixth.

O’Connor and UVa catcher Nate Irving argued the call.

“I don’t know,” O’Connor said when asked if Convissar leaned in. “You’re out there fighting for your guys. It’s a tough call.”

The next batter, LaMonte Wade, brought Convissar home with a triple to give Maryland a 3-1 lead.

“When you’re in a game like this, every one counts,” O’Connor said.

And for the first time in 2013, UVa didn’t get enough of them.

But taking the opening Atlantic Coast Conference series of the year leaves little reason for much concern.

“I thought our guys handled the situation real well all weekend,” O’Connor said. “To play your opening ACC series and win the series, if you do that all year, you’re going to have a chance to win the regular season title.”

Virginia returns to Davenport on Wednesday for a 5 p.m. game against Liberty (10-5).

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