Nate Irving, a sophomore, sat between senior Scott Silverstein and Kyle Crockett, a recently drafted junior, at the press conference table inside the Davenport Field Hall of Fame room.
For all intents and purposes, this was the Virginia catcher’s last time sharing anything with two of his pitchers.
The Cavaliers’ season ended Monday with a 6-5 loss to Mississippi State in the Super Regional.
Irving, a member of one of the more talented classes in the Brian O’Connor era, was asked about next year and what the returning Wahoos would learn from this 2013 ending.
Without a blink, he didn’t dare go to the future. Not in this moment. Not in this setting.
“It’s not about our class,” Irving said. “It’s about this team. It’s about this year’s team. Nothing will ever be about one class or one person or one play or one instance. It will always be about the team, that group, that year.
“I’m really disappointed for guys like Scott and Jared [King] and Reed [Gragnani], who gave it everything they had. We couldn’t pull through for them.
“Right now, it’s about this team.”
The ’13 Cavs won 50 games for the third time in program history, advanced to the NCAA Tournament for a 10th straight year, hosted a Regional for the seventh time in the last decade and made a Super Regional for the fourth time in five years.
The chance for a third College World Series trip in the last half-decade ended on Monday when MSU closer Jonathan Holder got Virginia designated hitter Derek Fisher to ground out to third base in the ninth inning, stranding UVa’s potential tying run 90 feet from home plate.
It closed the book on another frustrating postseason for Fisher. In two NCAA Tournaments, the sophomore is 2-for-36. He was also the last out in last year’s regional loss to Oklahoma.
But Fisher does return for 2014. In fact, seven-ninths of a lineup that led the ACC in hitting comes back for an encore.
The offense should be loaded. The pitching, with the return of Friday starter Brandon Waddell, plus four of his fellow to-be sophomores, and the addition of heralded prospect Connor Jones, should be improved.
“They are a really good club,” said Mississippi State coach John Cohen. “They have phenomenal at-bats. They’re a young club. They have really young talented pitching, which bodes well for them in the future. And they’re very, very well-coached.”
O’Connor is the mastermind behind it. In his 10 years as UVa’s skipper, he’s won 461 games.
After his 161st loss, however, he, like his players, was not immediately peeking ahead.
“I am not looking to next year at all,” O’Connor said.
Branden Cogswell might be the most motivated of the whole bunch for 2014. The sophomore started two games in the 2012 Regional. Because of a broken finger, suffered over a month ago, he didn’t see any time in the 2013 postseason.
Although, Cogswell, an All-ACC shortstop who batted .346, was available this weekend.
“I feel so bad for Branden Cogswell,” O’Connor said. “Injuries are part of the game. This kid is a competitor and was consistent all year long, but didn’t have a chance to play in NCAA play. I will tell you that when he hurt himself, that there could be a chance he could come back for a regional game. But realistically, I thought it might not be until Omaha, if we were in that position.
“He was ready to play this weekend. He was healthy enough to play this weekend. I made the decision not to play him because it had been five or six weeks since he had taken a live at-bat. ... I know he’s disappointed that we didn’t put him in.”
As UVa is disappointed it’s not preparing for the College World Series.
“Unfortunately, it didn’t really go our way at the end,” Irving said. “But I think this team has to hold its head high no matter what. We did some really amazing things this year.”