The pressure was mounting about as much as the potential swelling of Kyle Crockett’s forearm.
In a few precious moments, the Virginia closer went from working an easy ninth inning to taking a line drive to the body followed by a wild pitch.
No. 11 UVa was clinging to a 4-3 lead over No. 16 N.C. State, but the Wolfpack had the tying run at second and its power-hitting first baseman at the plate.
However, Tarran Senay didn’t stand a chance. He was dealing with the Cavaliers’ bullpen.
Keeping with the theme of the day, Crockett provided the exclamation point with a 1-2 90 mph fastball that froze Senay.
Game over. Saturday over.
The Wahoos are 21-2 (6-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) after sweeping N.C. State in a Saturday doubleheader at Davenport Field. The 8-2 game one win resembled the 4-3 game two victory in one key way.
The Cavalier relievers dominated the Wolfpack relievers.
“Our bullpen’s been performing great,” Crockett said. “Austin Young came out today and had huge innings. Josh Sborz came out and shut them down for two innings. It was just a team effort and it was great to see.”
In a series headlined by its starters (see UVa ace Brandon Waddell vs. N.C. State future first-round pick Carlos Rodon), the relief unit proved to be just as valuable.
In game one, Waddell went 5 2/3 innings, giving up two runs on six hits while striking out six. Rodon, the nation’s leader in K’s, went the same length and gave up the same number of runs to go along with a pair of hits, eight strikeouts and six walks.
It was 2-all with two out and runners in scoring position in the sixth when Virginia coach Brian O’Connor opted to pull Waddell after 84 pitches.
“Certainly we showed the level of confidence we have in him putting him in that scenario,” O’Connor said.
And he delivered.
The junior righty needed all of one pitch — a slider — to get Jake Fincher to ground out to third and end the threat.
“You always have to have something out of the pen,” Young said. “I made a pitch a guy swung at and Nick Howard made a great play on the ball to get us out of that inning.”
It was all the momentum the Wahoo offense would need.
With its next three at-bats, UVa scored six runs on eight hits to open the floodgates. The Cavs particularly rocked the N.C. State bullpen in the eighth with a five-run burst highlighted by a Derek Fisher run-scoring triple and RBI doubles from Nick Howard, Nate Irving and Joe McCarthy.
“That was huge,” O’Connor said.
In game two, the Virginia lineup got four runs across through five innings and then hung on, again, courtesy of spotless relief.
Starter Scott Silverstein improved to 4-0 after five frames of six-hit, three-run ball.
Taking Young’s cue, Josh Sborz worked out of a jam in the sixth inning by inducing a double play. The freshman went two innings without giving up a hit.
Crockett then cruised through the eighth before being forced to end drama in the ninth.
The junior left-hander opened the closing inning by getting Brett Austin to line out to right field and Brett Williams to ground out to short.
Fincher then drilled a 1-1 pitch off Crockett and into the glove of Branden Cogswell, who couldn’t throw to first in time.
“It squared me up a little bit,” Crockett said, “but it didn’t phase me at all. I was in the moment. I had a lot of adrenaline going. I didn’t even feel it when I was out there.”
Senay, who entered the weekend ranked 24th nationally in RBI, then stepped to the plate. He swung at a 1-1 Crockett toss that made it to the backstop, allowing Fincher to get to second.
But Crockett remained cool and calmly rung Senay up to close the book on an impressive day before 2,841 fans.
“I had two strikes on him,” Crockett said. “I knew the runner wasn’t going to try to go anywhere. I wasn’t going to worry about him at all. With two outs, I was just trying to get the guy in front of me.”
The UVa pitchers threw 18 innings Saturday. They allowed five runs on 13 hits, but struck out 17 and issued zero walks.
“That’s just the mentality that they take,” O’Connor said. “[Virginia pitching coach Karl Kuhn] is as good as anybody out there in preparing our guys to go after hitters and execute a game plan.”
N.C. State dropped to 16-8 and 3-5 in the ACC.
The Cavaliers will go for the series sweep at 11 a.m., today. Because of inclement weather in the forecast, game three has been moved from Monday and will not be televised by ESPNU.