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Cavs mop up Blue Devils to complete series sweep

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Posted: Sunday, May 12, 2013 7:01 pm | Updated: 6:22 pm, Tue May 14, 2013.

As the clock neared 10 p.m., Friday, and the rains had parted long enough for play to resume, Nate Irving poked an 0-1 Andrew Istler pitch through a hole on the right side of the infield.

The Virginia players came piling onto the playing surface. The few who remained at Davenport Field erupted in cheers.

Irving’s RBI single gave the Cavaliers a series-opening win over Duke and effectively shook off the rust from a nine-day exam break.

Then the rest of the weekend happened.

Late-inning dramatics? UVa didn’t need them anymore.

For a second consecutive sun-splashed afternoon, the No. 7 Wahoos trounced the Blue Devils with an offense that could be heard sizzling in Durham. Sunday’s final scoreboard read: UVa 14, Duke 6. Throw in Saturday’s 17-8 rout and the last two legs of the weekend sweep came in a mashing fashion.

“Certainly that ninth inning on Friday, our come-from-behind victory, we just had a lot of real positive momentum from an offensive standpoint the rest of the weekend,” said Virginia coach Brian O’Connor. “That’s as good as an offensive weekend as we have had, really, as long as I can remember against an ACC team.

“To put back-to-back games together like this from an offensive standpoint has been quite impressive.”

From Saturday on, the Cavs (42-8, 20-7 ACC) scored 31 runs on 37 hits. Duke (25-26, 9-18) was forced to use 10 different pitchers in the combined seven-plus hours it took for the two games to finish.

The days moved at a marathon pace, but Virginia proved it couldn’t be caught when it opted to sprint.

Sunday, UVa trailed 3-0 after the Duke half of the second inning. Naturally, the ‘Hoos responded with a five-spot in the bottom half of the frame. And when the Blue Devils cut a 7-4 deficit to 7-6 in the fifth, Virginia added five runs in the seventh and a pair in the eighth.

It was an automatic response by one of the country’s hottest lineups.

“It’s so interchangeable,” said second baseman Reed Gragnani, who went 4 for 5 on Sunday and finished 9 for 14 in the series. “It’s so balanced, so versatile. It’s no surprise how efficient we were and how we executed this weekend.”

As has been well-documented, the Cavaliers are putting on this latest offensive display minus their hits leader, Branden Cogswell, who is sidelined with a broken finger.

The shortstop’s absence moved Mike Papi to bat leadoff and brought Derek Fisher from the six-hole to the five-hole.

Sunday, Papi went 2 for 4 with four RBI, and Fisher hit a seventh-inning home run that threatened the flagpole beyond the wall in left-center field.

“I love this offensive lineup,” O’Connor said. “I love it because of the versatility. ... It’s worked well for us. We haven’t switched our lineup much until this situation happened with Cogswell. Certainly, they’ve been very productive all year long.”

Papi and Gragnani led four Wahoos who had multiple hits. Freshman Joe McCarthy went 4 for 5 with two RBI.

“I think we all had a great approach at the plate and we stuck to it,” McCarthy said. “It really started to pay off.”

Pitching-wise, there were more starter struggles. Nick Howard lasted just 3 2/3 innings, giving up four runs on eight hits before normal closer Kyle Crockett (4-0) was tagged for two runs in 4 1/3 innings of relief.

But, with this much support, an ace performance was hardly needed.

“If you’re an opposing pitcher, there’s no player-off or time-off for you,” Gragnani said. “When you get to the bottom of the order, it’s strong and it’s so balanced.

“And that’s tough for pitchers.”

Virginia will host VCU at 6 p.m., Tuesday, before its monster regular season-closing series at No. 1 North Carolina starting on Thursday.

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