Nate Irving flipped his helmet forward, sprinted to the mound and slapped Josh Sborz’s right hand.
The book on a dominating Virginia pitching weekend ended when Sborz got Toledo’s Anthony Smith to harmlessly fly out to center. Sunday’s chapter included another unblemished start backed by three unique relief appearances.
No. 25 UVa swept the Rockets with a 6-3 win before 2,536 sun-splashed spectators at Davenport Field.
The Cavaliers are 7-0. Their starters haven’t allowed a run in over a week. Their catcher is a bundle of energy.
“I’m feeling great,” Irving said. “I felt better in the ninth inning today than I did in the first, to be honest. I’m feeling good.”
And why shouldn’t he?
The sophomore has had Davenport’s best seat all season. Crouched behind home plate, Irving’s been a hands-on witness to ace performance after ace performance after ace performance.
Friday, he caught the historic Brandon Waddell 15-strikeout show. Saturday, it was Scott Silverstein and Whit Mayberry stringing together a five-hitter. Sunday, it began with Nick Howard’s 59 shutout tosses and ended with a grind-it-out combination of Nathan Kirby, Austin Young and Sborz.
The final three-game series scoreboard reads: Virginia 26, Toledo 3.
“It’s been great,” Irving said. “Honestly, I can’t even really notice. Over the course of the game, it just seems like everything is working the way it’s supposed to.
“I wouldn’t call us dominant, but I’d call us in-control. I feel like even the young guys have a better sense of being in control of the game than just being flat-out dominant.”
On four days’ rest, Howard worked four scoreless innings, scattering four hits, striking out one and walking another. Dating back to Silverstein’s fifth in last Saturday’s 13-9 win at East Carolina, UVa starters now have a streak of 29 1/3 innings without giving up a run.
“Certainly, we’ve been getting some high-quality starts this season,” said Wahoo skipper Brian O’Connor. “That’s how you win baseball games. Your starter goes out there and gives you a chance to win in the first half of the game. That’s going to continue to be important for us moving forward.
“I think all those guys are doing some good things.”
With a fresh bullpen, O’Connor turned to Kirby in the fifth. The freshman fire-baller hummed through his first two batters with wicked stuff that hit the radar gun at 94 mph.
James Miglin became the first Rocket to catch up to the heater with a first-pitch home run that ended the Cavs’ scoreless streak at 22 2/3 innings.
Kirby gave up three runs on three hits with 4 K’s in 2 1/3 innings.
“Obviously, you can sit in the stands and see Nathan Kirby throw and see, ‘Wow. Boy, this guy has an electric arm,’” O’Connor said. “But there’s so much more than that. He knows that. It’s a learning experience for him.
“The ball the guy hit out, he put a great swing on it, but it was up in the zone. If you’re sitting on fastball, I don’t care who it is, you leave the ball up in the zone, you can drive the ball out of the ballpark. ... He’ll learn. It’s a learning process. It’s a different level than he’s used to. Hopefully, he continues to improve.”
Young, a junior righty, retired two straight Toledo batters to leave a runner stranded at third in the seventh inning. Sborz, a freshman righty, struck out Zack Michael to end the eighth with two Rockets on.
“I think it’s a great experience for those guys,” O’Connor said. “They’re going to be pitching in close ballgames.”
Sunday, they came through.
Just like the staff has all season.
“We knew we had the talent, we just had to go out there and prove it,” Howard said. “A lot of guys have come in that the media really doesn’t know about. In the clubhouse, we all knew that we had the talent to do this.”
Offensively, the ‘Hoos scored their six runs on three hits and eight walks. Derek Fisher had a three-run homer in the fifth inning.
UVa will return to Davenport on Tuesday against George Washington. Freshman righty Trey Oest will throw the 3 p.m. first pitch.