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Lewicki impressive despite limited action in shutout win over Colonials

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Posted: Wednesday, April 2, 2014 9:17 pm | Updated: 7:45 am, Thu Apr 3, 2014.

Artie Lewicki stared into catcher Robbie Coman, came to a set and fired a fastball that zipped through the strike zone at 90 mph.

Virginia’s game with George Washington on Wednesday was only a pitch old, but Cavalier coach Brian O’Connor had to feel like he could already chalk up a victory.

An important, but oft-injured, piece to his staff looked like his old self.

“It was definitely a big weight off my shoulders,” Lewicki said.

In his previous outing, Lewicki, shaking off a strained oblique suffered a month earlier, lasted just two batters before O’Connor felt the need to pull him against Princeton on March 20 because of what the manager viewed as poor mechanics.

Wednesday, those issues didn’t exist.

On a 30-pitch limit, Lewicki went three full innings to kick-start No. 1 UVa’s 10-0 rout of George Washington before 3,143 spectators at Davenport Field.

The senior right-hander gave up just one hit — a bunt single from Eli Kashi in the third inning — while recording a strikeout and not issuing a walk.

It was a sample size of 25 tosses against a lineup batting all of .236, but it was an encouraging sign considering the long-term plans for Lewicki when the season started.

“When we felt he was back pitching to what he’s capable of, [we wanted to] start him in the middle of the week,” O’Connor said. “Potentially, that could put pressure on the guys on the weekend and could give us more options.

“As we continue to build him up, and hopefully we’re through the woods on his injury, I just think it gives us plenty more options. You get into a tournament, you get into an ACC Tournament, you got to have somebody that can start for you that’s a fourth starter, that’s really a high-quality guy.

“And when you get into tournament time, NCAA Regional time, things like that, the more pitching depth you have I think it really increases your chances at winning the thing.”

In 2012, Lewicki went 4-3 with a 3.82 ERA. From late April to late May, he was arguably UVa’s most trusted arm, dazzling with a 3-0 record and 1.59 ERA.

But that summer, during a stint in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, Lewicki injured his throwing elbow. He had Tommy John surgery in August and was cleared to play in April.

For Virginia in 2013, he made two appearances of an inning each before being shut down.

Seemingly fully healthy this season, Lewicki started against William & Mary on Feb. 19 and had his traditional velocity — 90-93 mph — humming in five solid innings.

A week later, while warming up to face VMI, the injury bug hit again.

“When I raised my glove to throw my last warm-up, I just felt a little bit of a pulling sensation, I guess, in my left side,” Lewicki said. “It turned into a sharp pain and it was just kind of debilitating to be honest. I couldn't really move that much.

“It turned out it was an oblique strain.”

Cue another trip to the shelf.

“It was frustrating at first,” Lewicki said, “but coming back from the first surgery and the first injury, this was only a small bump in the road compared to what I had to do last time.”

A training room veteran, the New Jersey native never pouted. Instead, Lewicki worked to return to form.

Wednesday, he made a subtle step in the right direction.

“It was great to see Artie out there,” said second baseman Branden Cogswell, who supported Lewicki with a 4-for-5, two-RBI evening. “I know when he last came out, he wasn’t throwing the way he used to. So to see him come out, to see him attack hitters, to see his velocity back up there was great to see.

“He’s only going to be an asset down the road.”

Lewicki got spotless bullpen relief from David Rosenberger (two innings), Austin Young (two) and Cameron Tekker (two).

The UVa offense recorded 11 hits, including two each from Kenny Towns and John La Prise.

The Cavaliers, winners of eight straight, improved their record to 25-4.

Perhaps more importantly, they improved their staff with a promising individual performance.

“If [Lewicki] continues to progress forward,” O’Connor said, “that’ll be a really big shot in the arm for us.”

George Washington dropped to 7-18.

Virginia travels to Pittsburgh on Friday to begin a three-game series.

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