Wearing a headset and staring into a rolling camera, Brian O’Connor was in post-game conversation with ESPN’s Mike Patrick and Doug Glanville. Behind the Virginia baseball coach, Tyler Allen and Nate Irving had Derek Fisher hanging from a PVC pipe, resembling a spit.
This is known as a “photobomb,” a term recently added to the Oxford dictionary. But for Sunday’s purposes, it should simply be known as UVa’s victory scene, a place the Cavaliers so desperately needed to arrive at following Saturday’s disappointment.
With a 7-3 win over Maryland before another sold-out crowd at Davenport Field on Sunday, Virginia (48-14) avoided elimination and forced a deciding Game 3 of the Charlottesville Super Regional.
With a trip to the College World Series on the line, first pitch is scheduled for 7 tonight.
Will the Wahoos be celebrating again?
Their most recent result certainly hints at good things.
Virginia rattled off 17 hits and got a clutch — and rare — bullpen performance from Artie Lewicki to put itself in prime position to launch its third trek to Omaha in six years.
“Personally, I had a really good feeling that this team would rise up today,” O’Connor said. “Certainly there is a lot of talent on this ballclub and they showed that today.”
The Terrapins (40-22) won their 15th game in 17 tries on Saturday, getting to UVa ace Nathan Kirby early and then holding off a late Cavalier rally to capture a 5-4 victory.
A day later, they were at their red-hot ways again, threatening Virginia’s slim 2-1 lead in the sixth inning by getting two runners on the base paths.
With two outs and sensing a momentum shift, O’Connor opted to replace his starter, Brandon Waddell, with Lewicki, a right-hander thought to be saved for a possible game three start.
“I made that decision because you are in a one-game season right now,” O’Connor said. “We’ve got a lot of confidence in Artie that he is going to go out there and throw strikes.”
The first batter to face Lewicki was Kevin Martir, a catcher who rocked UVa’s David Rosenberger for a home run in May’s ACC Tournament.
Against Lewicki, however, Martir was lost, striking out on three straight pitches and leaving teammates Tim Lewis and Anthony Papio stranded.
Cue all kinds of high-fives and fist bumps in the Virginia dugout.
“Bullpen adrenaline is different than starting adrenaline, for sure,” Lewicki said. “I think you guys all saw that. I felt good.”
So did the UVa lineup.
Sparked by Lewicki’s gutsy spot, the Wahoos scored three runs on four hits in the top of the seventh inning, forcing Maryland starter Mike Shawaryn (11-4) out of the game.
“Things kind of unfolded,” Shawaryn said. “It didn’t go the way I wanted it to, but they were able to put the bat on the ball today and things happened.”
In that floodgate-opening seventh, run-scoring hits came from Kenny Towns and Brandon Downes. Fisher had an RBI sacrifice fly.
Shawaryn, a freshman right-hander, gave up a career-high five runs and 12 hits. The ACC’s wins leader took his first loss since April 25.
Against him, relievers Tayler Stiles, Jared Price, Ben Brewster and Alex Robinson, the Cavs had their best offensive showing since scoring seven runs on 17 knocks at Wake Forest on May 16.
Towns went 3 for 5 with an RBI. Daniel Pinero went 3 for 5 with two runs scored. Mike Papi went 3 for 5 with an RBI, raising his NCAA Tournament batting average to .550.
UVa scored five of its seven runs after Lewicki’s strikeout in the sixth.
“Baseball’s all about momentum,” Papi said. “When he came in and struck him out on three pitches and attacked him and made the hitter work instead of putting pressure on himself, it really changed the momentum in our favor.”
Lewicki finished the game, allowing two hits over 3 1/3 innings.
Not bad for the senior’s first relief appearance in two months.
“It has been a while since I’ve come out of the pen,” Lewicki said, “so I was definitely excited. I just tried to go out there and throw strikes and it worked out.”
For him, for all 30 Cavaliers.
Virginia, the preseason No. 1 team in the country, is now one win away from advancing to the College World Series.
“I know this team will come out tomorrow and give it the best they have,” O’Connor said.
Righty Josh Sborz (4-4, 3.38 ERA) will start for UVa while righty Bobby Ruse (7-2, 2.70) will get the nod for Maryland.