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UVa baseball notes: O’Connor not alarmed after losses

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Posted: Monday, April 29, 2013 8:02 pm | Updated: 10:33 am, Tue Apr 30, 2013.

In the immediate aftermath of his team’s worst afternoon of the 2013 season, Virginia coach Brian O’Connor broke down a doubleheader sweep to Virginia Tech in simple terms.

“We didn’t execute like we normally do in all areas of the game, quite frankly — pitching-wise and defense-wise and also at the plate,” O’Connor said Saturday in front of the Cavaliers’ dugout at English Field. “When you do that against a good opponent on the road, you’re going to get beat.

“I’m not going to make too much out of it other than hopefully it’s a learning experience, and we can be a little bit better next time.”

Next time is 7 p.m., tonight.

UVa (38-8, 17-7 ACC) takes on VCU (21-21, 6-9 Atlantic 10) at The Diamond in Richmond. For just the second time this year, the seventh-ranked Wahoos will be seeking to snap a two-game losing streak.

Unfamiliar territory? Sure. Cause for great concern? O’Connor isn’t buying it.

“Nothing alarming,” said the 10th-year skipper. “You don’t win every game in the sport of baseball. We just got to learn from it and move on.”

The struggles against the Hokies (27-18, 11-13) came from everywhere. In the three-game series, Virginia pitchers allowed 22 runs on 31 hits, the Virginia offense stranded 26 base-runners and the Virginia defense committed four errors.

Thrown together against a Virginia Tech team O’Connor called the best he’s seen in a decade and the Cavs suffered their first series loss to their arch-rivals since 2009.

“We’re going to learn from this,” said Nick Howard, who took the loss in Saturday’s second game. “It was a rough day for us. But we might be in this position again come postseason and we’re just going to have to learn from it and just gain from it, I guess.”

UVa recovered from its previous two-game skid with a 7-2 win at then-No. 17 Georgia Tech on April 13. The ‘Hoos had the luxury of using senior left-hander Scott Silverstein that afternoon in Atlanta.

Tonight, they’ll start Nathan Kirby (2-1, 6.58 ERA), a rookie lefty from the Richmond area who has given up eight runs on 14 hits in his last 4 1/3 innings.

“Nate Kirby’s been very, very good at times this year,” O’Connor said. “But he’s been inconsistent. We’re going to count on him and he needs to get back to doing what has made him successful — and he will.

“Again, another freshman. These are the aches and pains you have with freshman pitchers. They’re going to be inconsistent at times.”

Biggest show in town

In its two previous visits to The Diamond, UVa drew crowds of 5,421 in 2011 (largest crowd for a college baseball game in state history) and 3,427 in 2012.

A similar scene is expected tonight.

“It’s always exciting when we go down and play in The Diamond,” O’Connor said of the Richmond Squirrels’ home. “VCU’s got a good team and we always get great crowds down there. All the Cavalier fans that are in the Richmond area come down and support us. It’ll be a big ballgame for us.

“It’s always nice to play in a double-A stadium. We’re looking forward to heading down there.”

UVa last traveled in-state on April 2 at Liberty. Liberty Baseball Stadium, with an attendance of 2,543, sold out.

In fact, with the Cavaliers as the opponent since 2010, school attendance records have been set at William & Mary (1,304 on March 10, 2010), James Madison (1,815 on March 17, 2010), VMI (1,463 on April 14, 2010), Radford (1,373 on April 19, 2011) and VCU in 2011.

“I think it’s great,” said Liberty athletic director Jeff Barber. “I was at South Carolina before here and I know how they went around the state. It meant a lot to those people. It’s great. We really are appreciative of the coach doing that at UVa.”

Welcome back, Kenny

In UVa’s season opener at East Carolina, Kenny Towns hit a pair of grand slams in the Cavs’ 14-4 win on Feb. 15.

Since then? Well, Towns has had his struggles with staying in the lineup.

Entering Saturday’s doubleheader, the sophomore third baseman/designated hitter was 2 for his last 14 and his batting average had dipped to .244.

But with a 5-for-8 day that included a home run and a pair of doubles, Towns became one of the few Wahoos who experienced success in Blacksburg.

“It felt good to get some good swings on the ball and get a little confidence back,” said Towns, who upped his batting average to .267. “So I was happy with the way I hit.”

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