HARRISONBURG — Joe McCarthy aggressively rounded second base with an eye on third base coach Kevin McMullan.
If Virginia was going to make history for a second time in five days, it would depend on McMullan’s signal.
Watching James Madison right fielder Tyler Gregory get to the baseball swiftly, McMullan threw up the stop sign.
McCarthy, slamming on the brakes, had to settle for his second double.
UVa didn’t have a batter hit for the cycle for the first time since 2001 on Tuesday night, but it did have a right fielder go 4-for-5 with a home run and four RBI as the No. 2 Cavaliers rolled James Madison, 9-3, before a capacity crowd of 1,632 at Eagle Field.
The Wahoos (28-5) had 14 hits.
“I’m really happy with the way we swung the bats,” said Virginia coach Brian O’Connor. “Obviously, Joe McCarthy had a great day.”
Friday, Nathan Kirby provided the ultimate pitching headline with a dominating 18-strikeout no-hitter at Pitt. Less than a week later, McCarthy tried to follow with a significant offensive performance.
Dipping to .262 on March 24 at Miami, McCarthy has been on a tear since, collecting 16 hits in his last 36 at-bats. He’s scored at least one run in each of UVa’s last 10 games.
Backed by a 5-for-11 weekend performance against Virginia Tech from March 28-30, the sophomore was named ACC Player of the Week.
Tuesday, McCarthy made an early case for earning that honor again.
Only 320 feet down the right field line, Eagle Field is all but an open invitation for lefties.
On a full count pitch in the first inning, McCarthy accepted that note with an absolute blast over the 16-foot wall in right-center to give the Wahoos a 2-0 lead and give himself a third homer of the season.
“If you think about it and try to hit home runs because you see that short porch, you’re not going to [be successful],” McCarthy said. “It’s got to be something you ignore. If you do, if you have a good approach, those at-bats will come.”
In the fourth, McCarthy doubled to left-center.
In the fifth, he singled to right.
In the sixth, he took a 1-1 delivery from Kevin Feehan to the right-center gap.
Deep enough to stretch out for that elusive triple?
“I was thinking three out of the box,” McCarthy admitted. “I got halfway to second, I take a look at Mac at third base and he’s throwing up the stop sign.
“So I wasn’t running through it.”
In fairness, Virginia was leading, 8-0, and an extra base was not necessarily needed.
McCarthy grounded out to short in his last at-bat. The reigning ACC Freshman of the Year is now batting .316, only 17 points off his final 2013 average.
“You knew he was going to start putting it together at some point,” O’Connor said. “Joe McCarthy’s too talented not to. Hitting’s a tough thing to do and, sometimes, it comes in streaks and takes guys a while.
“Certainly, he’s seeing the ball really well right now.”
McCarthy had plenty of offensive company Tuesday. Mike Papi cranked his sixth home run of the year in the fifth inning to jumpstart his 2-for-5, four-RBI night. John La Prise (3-for-3) had his eighth multi-hit game of the season, increasing his average to an eye-popping .453.
“He’s keeping it pretty simple, John La Prise is,” O’Connor said. “He’s putting the ball on the barrel. He’s doing some nice things and it’s really been a big boost for us, especially in that nine-hole.”
Freshman righty Alec Bettinger (4-0, 0.78 ERA) got the win and Artie Lewicki provided three innings of scoreless relief.
McCarthy, however, was the star.
Cycle or no cycle.
“If the opportunity to go three was there, I would have taken it,” McCarthy said. “But I would have been out — no doubt.”
James Madison (11-18) got all of its runs in the ninth inning.
UVa hosts No. 13 Clemson this weekend. First pitch is set for 6 p.m., Friday.