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Bottom of the order comes up big in Virginia's win over BC

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Posted: Friday, March 14, 2014 9:55 pm

Derek Fisher leaned up with his elbows resting against the back of the cage and watched his teammates take batting practice, moving only to collect baseballs that had sprayed to shallow parts of the infield.

First pitch between No. 3 Virginia and Boston College was still two hours away, but this would be the extent of Fisher’s activity Friday evening.

The Cavaliers played their first game since discovering they’d be without their star left fielder for the next four to six weeks.

The early indication is UVa will manage nicely.

The Wahoos, further proving why they can make the case for having the most versatile and loaded roster in the nation, cruised past the Eagles, 8-1, before 3,002 spectators at Davenport Field.

“This team, this program has always overcome difficult things that have happened from an injury standpoint and continued to play good baseball,” said Virginia coach Brian O’Connor. “Even though we know how special of a player Derek is and we feel for him, our team will be just fine. And whenever Derek returns, going through this will make us even stronger.”

Fisher, a preseason All-American who’s batting .333 with four doubles and seven RBI this season, injured his wrist last weekend at Duke. He was held out of Virginia’s 13-2 rout of James Madison on Tuesday. Wednesday, it was announced that he would have surgery on Monday to remove his hamate bone.

He’s not scheduled to return until next month, missing up to 18 ACC games.

In the meantime, the Cavs (13-3, 3-1 ACC) are forced to reshuffle their lineup.

O’Connor, a four-time ACC Coach of the Year, tinkered effectively Friday.

Mike Papi, a first baseman, was moved to left field, the spot where he earned All-American honors a year ago. Against the Eagles, he went 1-for-4 with a run scored.

Nick Howard, used mostly as a designated hitter this season, moved to first. He scored a run.

The DH role then went to John La Prise (3-for-4 with an RBI).

“Everybody’s always talked about the depth of these position players,” O’Connor said. “When you have depth, you can overcome things like this. You insert John La Prise there in the DH spot and he rewards his team by getting three hits.

“So there’s a number of different options that we can go with and we have confidence in all of them.”

Fisher or no Fisher, UVa still would have defeated BC.

No. 1, it still had Kenny Towns. The junior third baseman, who entered Tuesday batting .094, is up to .211 after Friday’s 3-for-3, two-double, three-RBI performance.

Credit a Monday afternoon buzz-cut delivered by Nathan Kirby as the slump-buster.

“I guess,” Towns said when asked if the fresh do was the secret. “I’ll give credit to whatever the hell works. I don’t really care.”

Towns was the headliner on a banner night for the bottom third of UVa’s order.

Nate Irving, Towns and La Prise combined to go 9-for-11 with three doubles and five RBI.

“When you can get guys that are swinging the bat well at the bottom of the order,” Towns said, “it makes us even better and tougher to pitch to because if people are hitting well at the bottom of the lineup and it gets right up to the top, a lot of runs can be scored and a lot of things can happen.”

UVa, which exploded for 16 hits Tuesday, had 14 knocks Friday.

Combined that with more stellar pitching and the Eagles (6-10, 0-4) never had much of a chance.

Kirby improved his record to 5-0 and lowered his ERA to 0.59 with 6 1/3 scoreless innings. He struck out four and walked one.

The left-hander now has a streak of 21 innings without giving up an earned run.

“I like to think I’m in a zone,” Kirby said, “but each and every day, I just try to go out and compete for the team.”

Kirby got near-spotless relief from four contributors, most notably Whit Mayberry.

Austin Young, who closed the seventh inning after Kirby allowed a one-out triple, remained with baseball to start the eighth. He loaded the bases without recording an out, getting O’Connor to bring in Mayberry.

The senior right-hander then calmly struck out two batters before getting John Hennessy to pop out to Branden Cogswell in shallow right field.

“That’s what a senior veteran does,” O’Connor said. “He’s been in those situations before.”

The Cavs and Eagles will close their series with a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m. today.

Fisher won’t be in the lineup, but plenty of other able ‘Hoos will be.

“We like to think for every Derek we have on the team,” Kirby said, “we have a guy right behind him, ready to do the job. It really showed today.”

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