Shortly after 3 p.m., Saturday, news of Justin Anderson’s block that sealed the Virginia basketball team’s trip to the ACC title game traveled to pockets of Davenport Field.
On the diamond, the baseball Cavaliers were taking on the Boston College Eagles in a somewhat uneventful 2-1 contest in the sixth inning.
Courtesy of Anderson’s play, the 3,351 spectators at the ballpark had something to get them out of their seats.
Tony Bennett’s Wahoos had defeated the Pittsburgh Panthers, 51-48, in the Greensboro Coliseum and now will play for the league tournament championship for the first time since 1994 at 1 p.m., today.
Meanwhile, Brian O’Connor’s Cavs weren’t generating nearly as much excitement.
But, given plenty of time, the ‘Hoos eventually came around.
Nick Howard hit a 12th inning walk-off single to give No. 3 Virginia a 3-2 win in the afternoon portion of a marathon doubleheader in Charlottesville.
Naturally, the nightcap didn’t end until John La Prise scored in the bottom of the ninth when BC first baseman John Hennessy muffed a Mike Papi grounder, giving UVa a 2-1 victory.
“Certainly, this was a long day of college baseball,” O’Connor said. “I’m just really, really proud of our team.”
Howard was the game one hero, but he had a trio of teammates that challenged for the title.
Nate Irving led off the ninth inning by getting plunked by Boston College reliever Bobby Skogsbergh. Branden Cogswell followed with a bunt single. Daniel Pinero followed with a sacrifice bunt, one of an NCAA record-tying seven for UVa.
With one out and runners at second and third, Papi had what he — and several observers — thought was the winning hit, but was robbed by a forward-diving Logan Hoggarth in left field.
Brandon Downes, up next, then drilled what he — and several observers — thought was the winning hit, but he was robbed by a wall-colliding Tom Bourdon in center field.
The scored remained tied at 2.
In the 10th, Kenny Towns, with two out and Joe McCarthy on third base, sent a shot into the left-center gap that he — and several observers — thought was the winning hit, but was robbed when Hoggarth full-out lunged and snatched the baseball before it hit a few feet in front of the warning track.
“Those were three tremendous plays by their outfielders,” O’Connor said. “They really were. They’re certainly a scrappy bunch. They’re not going to give in. Those plays kept them in the ballgame. Any one of them would have won it.”
Virginia had the leadoff man on 10 times in 12 innings. On three occasions, the ‘Hoos brought him home.
In the fifth, Papi singled in Cogswell.
In the eighth, McCarthy came in on a Robbie Coman single and Hoggarth fielding error.
In the 12th, Howard took a full count pitch from Nick Poore up the middle to bring in McCarthy.
Cue the celebration.
“It really didn’t even hit me that I got the game-winning hit until everybody started swarming me,” Howard said.
Howard (1-0) also got the game one win after going a season-high 2 1/3 innings, yielding just two hits.
Connor Jones, however, was the show-stealer.
Four days after making the first start of his career, the freshman right-hander returned to his bullpen role and delivered a career-high 4 2/3 innings of scoreless ball. He struck out four and walked none.
“Being a reliever, you do whatever’s called of you,” Jones said. “So you just kind of go with the flow. If they ask you to go five, you go five. They ask you to go two batters, you go two batters. You got to adjust to what they say.”
Game two offered similar themes to game one.
Virginia had a ton of hits (nine), just not a lot of runs.
The Cavaliers left 10 runners on base, but delivered when it mattered most.
La Prise led off the ninth with a walk and Cogswell followed by getting hit by an Eric Stevens pitch. Pinero then reached on an error, loading the bases for Papi, the owner of three career grand slams.
BC played the slugger with five infielders and two outfielders. He responded with a hard-hit ball to Hennessy that was bobbled just enough to get La Prise home and reward UVa (15-3, 5-1 ACC) with a weekend sweep of the Eagles (6-12, 0-6).
Whit Mayberry (1-1) earned the win.
“I think sometimes people can take winning for granted,” O’Connor said. “These college baseball games are hard to win. We certainly, today, did not play our best baseball, but I’m just really proud of this team because I think the true sign of a good ballclub and a true sign of character of young men is how they handle situations when maybe it’s not quite going their way.”
Virginia is scheduled to host Rutgers on Tuesday.