The weathered, but still proud laminated pieces of orange paper lined up along the right field line bleachers like they have for the past eight seasons. Carrie and Charlie Souter are the longtime keepers of the K’s, the symbols that represent Virginia pitching dominance.
On Friday, Carrie packed her bag with 22 of them while Charlie brought his scorebook to accurately keep up with the Davenport Field debut of Brandon Waddell.
With each filthy change-up or devastating slider that deceptively crawled by a Toledo player to end an at-bat, Carrie would stand up in the wintry conditions to duct tape another sign to the green fencing.
After Waddell forced 15 such trips, Carrie didn’t know if it was the most K’s she’s ever used for one Cavalier.
“I hesitate to say because we’ve seen so many great ones,” she said.
Like Danny Hultzen, Branden Kline and Seth Greisinger. The Souters, loyal Wahoo followers since the mid-90s, have been witnesses to several impressive mound performances.
Friday, Waddell became the latest to shine before their eyes.
The freshman left-hander struck out 15 Rockets in six innings as No. 25 UVa (5-0) cruised to a 15-0 win before 2,246 entertained spectators.
The outing produced the most strikeouts by a Cavalier rookie since Greisinger registered 16 against North Carolina in 1994. It was the most by any Wahoo since Hultzen struck out 15 against East Carolina in 2011.
“Probably this,” Waddell answered with a smile when asked about the highest strikeout game of his entire baseball career. “I’m not a very dominant, power guy so I rely more on my off-speed, secondary pitches.
“They were just working today.”
Just a week earlier, Waddell made his first collegiate start at ECU in front of a rowdy crowd of 3,511. He scattered five hits over 4 2/3 innings and allowed one earned run before giving the ball to fellow first-year Josh Sborz.
This time, he closed six frames by himself with effective breaking stuff and a fastball that topped in the high 80s.
The slight 6-foot-2, 160-pounder was truly masterful during a stretch from the first to third inning when he recorded seven straight strikeouts.
That brilliant change-up, some 11-14 mph slower than his heater, was the knockout pitch of choice.
“Since he’s gotten here, that’s been a big pitch for him,” said Virginia coach Brian O’Connor.
Toledo (1-2) found out why.
“I’m not really a power guy,” Waddell said. “I never have been. My frame doesn’t support power, so I’ve thrown a change-up my whole life. It’s really been my next pitch.
“I’m real comfortable with it.”
But it was a deadly slider that capped his afternoon.
O’Connor said the game plan was for Waddell to get 90-100 pitches. As the sixth inning approached, he was at 80. But a leadoff single combined with a walk and an infield hit, his sixth surrendered, boosted that total quickly before pitching coach Karl Kuhn made his way to the mound for a visit.
The bases were loaded with two outs. Waddell had to retire Rocket right fielder Andy Mix to end his day unblemished.
“He basically just came out there and told me to relax,” Waddell said of the discussion with Kuhn. “He kind of comes out there and gives you pointers. Maybe you’re not taking enough time. You got to breathe. You get in a pace and you want to go and go and go, but you got to take your time and let everything breathe.
“He just reminds you of the things you go to do — and to throw strikes.”
With his 104th delivery, Waddell did just that. A slider painted the outside part of the plate on its way past Mix’s empty swing.
Waddell’s banner home debut finished in style.
“I was proud of him,” O’Connor said of the Houston native. “He buckled down and made some big pitches there. He probably had a pretty good idea he was coming out after that hitter, no matter what.
“You can see why we like him so much. He’s very poised, he’s very calm out there and just trusts his stuff.”
Said Nick Howard, who led UVa’s offensive charge with four hits and three RBIs: “You could tell right from the first outing he had here, we knew why he came here and why we recruited him. He’s a dominant pitcher.”
One that might force the Souters to bring more K’s to the ballpark.
Virginia and Toledo will resume their series at 1 p.m., today.