In the outfield, Brandon Downes joins with Joe McCarthy and Mike Papi for an air-bump. In the infield, Jared King and Nick Howard go through a series of high-fives.
Until May 16, these were the Virginia baseball victory scenes.
After UVa’s 2-1 win over Army on Friday in the opening game of the Charlottesville Regional, Nate Irving found Brandon Waddell and gave him a hug.
It was the second such moment in two weeks. A catcher embracing his pitcher following a clutch performance.
It’s a tradition now. A new Cavalier victory scene.
Waddell, a freshman making his first start in an NCAA Tournament game, was simply masterful, taming the Black Knights to the tune of one run on three hits in seven innings. The lefty struck out eight and walked none.
First-seeded Virginia (48-10) is into the winners' bracket. A certain 19-year-old can take a bow.
“I think this is just an example of how mature he is,” Irving said, “and how mature he is as a ballplayer and how mature he is as a person.”
On May 16 at No. 2 North Carolina, Waddell got a preview of what this stage would be like. He took on the mighty Tar Heels and came out alive in the 10-4 win, not allowing a run in the final four innings of a seven-inning outing.
Friday provided an appropriate encore.
“Chapel Hill was a great experience,” Irving said. “It was a great experience. The fans were going crazy. It was a great situation to be in.
“I know he loves these situations and he thrives in them because he wants to be that guy out there.”
At 1:05, Friday afternoon, Waddell took the rubber in front of 3,826 spectators, most of them on hand to witness the Cavs’ first step toward the College World Series.
Was there pressure? Sure. But did Waddell, the Friday starter since UVa’s Feb. 15 opener at East Carolina, ever feel it?
“Going back through all the experiences I’ve had through the year,” Waddell said, “it’s still the same game I’ve played my whole life. ... You know what your job is — to make pitches, keep your team in the game. You just got to go back to the mindset and worry about what you can control.”
What he couldn’t control Friday was the hurler he shared a mound with.
Army starter Chris Rowley, a senior who got rocked for six runs in this exact game a season ago, made his Davenport Field amends.
The All-American right-hander was a workhorse, tossing 122 times in seven innings, scattering eight hits and yielding just two runs.
Against one of the most potent lineups in the country, Rowley limited the Wahoos to three hits in 12 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
“As far as being able to make those money pitches, I thought that I did an OK job for the most part,” said Rowley, who dropped to 9-4. “I thought that my approach to them was just to make pitches I need to make. I had a great defense behind me.”
UVa was able to crack Rowley’s stubborn code on just two occasions.
In the fifth inning, Papi singled home Kenny Towns. Two batters later, McCarthy brought home Irving with his own single to right.
The only Army run came in its half of the fifth when second baseman Grant Van Orden, with runners at first and third, perfectly executed a suicide squeeze bunt to score Jacob Page.
“In that situation, you’re looking to hopefully push one across early,” said Black Knight coach Joe Sottolano. “You could stay out of the double play, it puts another guy in scoring position. Everything certainly lined up.”
But that’s all Waddell would give up. After the Army run, the Houston native retired the final seven batters he faced, brilliantly mixing sliders and change-ups with 88 mph fastballs.
As Virginia coach Brian O’Connor put it, “Brandon Waddell was just as good or better than Rowley today.”
In typical Kyle Crockett fashion, the UVa All-ACC closer was electric in his two frames of relief. Crockett faced eight batters, allowed two hits, but struck out four, including all three Black Knights in the ninth.
It gave Waddell his sixth win in eight decisions. The most important win of his young career.
“This whole season, he’s matured with each start,” Irving said. “Today was just a culmination of all of it.”
The Cavaliers will face Elon at 6 p.m., tonight. Senior Scott Silverstein (9-1) will start.
Fourth-seeded Army (29-22) will take on UNC Wilmington in the 1 p.m. losers' bracket game.