Austin Young hasn’t washed his Virginia baseball cap since his freshman year. It’s covered in dried sweat, lessening the navy on the lid and fading the orange to near white on the brim.
The hat is circa 2011, the same season UVa started 31-2 and marched all the way to the College World Series.
Sunday afternoon, after Young had contributed to the Cavaliers’ 22nd win in 24 games to begin the 2013 campaign, he let reporters know he didn’t make that trip to Omaha. His headgear, as weathered as it is, has yet to make an appearance on the sport’s grandest stage.
“It’s OK,” the junior reliever said with a grin. “We’ll go this year, hopefully.”
It’s only late March, but it might be a safe time to start approaching the topic.
Do these Wahoos have College World Series potential?
No. 11 Virginia beat No. 16 N.C. State, 6-3, on Sunday to hand the Wolfpack their first Atlantic Coast Conference series sweep in two years.
In many ways, a statement was delivered this weekend at Davenport Field.
“Any time you can win three games in this league, especially against a high-quality opponent like N.C. State, it’s a big step forward for us,” said UVa coach Brian O’Connor. “There’s a lot of baseball left in this season. There’s still seven conference series and a number of mid-week games, but certainly, this weekend, our guys showed something with winning all three games and showed that we can sweep a high-quality opponent here at home.”
And, really, the Cavs (7-2 in the ACC) used one basic formula to get it done.
O’Connor’s bunch relied on a quality starter, effective bullpen work and one big offensive inning.
The Wolfpack had no answer for it during Saturday’s doubleheader and came up empty again a day later.
Nick Howard went 4 1/3 innings, giving up two runs on six hits and striking out three. The sophomore was relieved by the trio of Young, Josh Sborz and Kyle Crockett, which didn’t allow another run until the ninth inning. The momentum-changing offense came in the fourth, when UVa turned a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead by sending nine batters to the plate.
“One-through-nine, our lineup’s very strong,” said second baseman Reed Gragnani, who drove in a run in the fourth. “Each guy has a chance, has an opportunity, I feel like every game, to get that clutch hit for us. It’s important that when we get in league play, especially if a team’s going to walk two leadoff guys, we take advantage of that.
“That’s what we did in that fourth inning. We kind of clutched up for another, picked each other up and we got a clutch hit.”
A few of them, actually.
Howard had the other RBI single in the fourth. Later, Branden Cogswell drew a bases-loaded walk to plate Howard.
Virginia added three more runs in the sixth to provide the insurance on a historic two days in Charlottesville.
The Wolfpack (16-9, 3-6) were last swept in league play in April 2011 at Miami.
“Wow,” Gragnani said when told of that factoid. “They’re a tough ballclub. Every time we square off with them, it’s one-run games. It’s a play here, a hit there, a clutch hit here.
“So we knew, even in the last inning, they weren’t going to go away.”
In fact, N.C. State did get to Crockett for two hits and a run in the final frame.
But it all went for naught.
Through 24 games, UVa is batting .313 with a team ERA of 2.32.
It’s almost like these Cavs want to be still playing in late June.
Young just might get to flash that worn cap at TD Ameritrade Park.
But don’t tell that to O’Connor ... yet.
“I really, really believe that this team has some steps forward that we have to take,” said the 10th-year skipper. “It’s hard to sit here and say that when you’re 22-2. But there is. There’s still more out there. We need to do some things better.”
The ‘Hoos will resume play against Towson at 5 p.m., Wednesday.