Austin Young’s throwing motion can be summed up by, well, only Austin Young.
“Kind of a high, three-quarters, to the side, and a little bit of a cross-fire, across my body,” he said.
OK, so the description doesn’t exactly paint the clearest picture of the Virginia reliever’s delivery. But, to keep it simple, you really just have to know one thing: It works.
After another 1 2/3 scoreless innings in Sunday’s 4-3 loss to Miami, Young’s ERA dropped to a microscopic 0.96.
The junior hasn’t allowed a run since St. Patrick’s Day, a span of 9 1/3 innings that has stretched four games. He’s improved to 3-0 during the hot streak.
And it’s not like the right-hander has been called upon in easy situations, either.
Against the Hurricanes on Sunday, he took over for Nick Howard in the fifth with a runner at second and one out. After allowing a walk to Chantz Mack, he then got Brad Fieger to ground into a 4-6-3, inning-ending double play.
A week earlier against N.C. State, he stranded two runners in his first inning of work on Saturday and followed by leaving the bases loaded in the same scenario on Sunday.
“I mean, I thrive for it,” Young said. “I love going out there knowing I need to make big pitches and get us out of the inning.”
He’s made life easy for UVa coach Brian O’Connor.
“In most games, there’s going to become a point where it’s a pivotal point in the ballgame that you need somebody to come out of the pen and be able to get an out and leave those runners stranded,” O’Connor said. “Certainly, Austin Young showed that he’s capable of doing that on a consistent basis. Part of that is he throws strikes and he’s a different look, throwing almost sidearm, that they haven’t seen.
“That’s a valuable pitcher on your pitching staff. He may not stay out there long, but to come in and get those outs and move the game along maybe to somebody else is very, very important.”
As O’Connor alluded to, perhaps a bulk of the credit goes to Young’s funky delivery.
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Mechanicsville native was barely a presence on the 2011 Virginia team that advanced to the College World Series. Competing in a talented bullpen that included the likes of Branden Kline and Justin Thompson, opportunities were sparse. Young, then a freshman, made all of three appearances.
He knew he had to stand out to get his chance. He opted to go heavy on the unique motion in 2012.
Young increased his appearances by 18, recording a 4.86 ERA in 33 1/3 innings.
“We had a great pen last year and I knew I’ve always been a reliever guy,” Young said. “That’s what I wanted to do, just throw it in the bullpen. Knowing that can be something different than the traditional over-the-top, it gives us a different angle, a different look in the pen from the right side.
“I feel like it helps the team out a lot.”
A year later, he’s become the standout of a relief unit that is sizzling with a 1.84 ERA through 28 games.
“I’m really enjoying coming in here and having an active role for the team,” Young said. “Whatever I can do, to be honest with you, I’m just happy to help us out and do whatever needs to be [done]. If it’s the fifth inning or the third inning or the ninth inning, whatever I need to do to get the job done for us.”
UVa freshman right fielder Joe McCarthy has reached base safety in every game this season. McCarthy went 5 for 14 with three RBI in the weekend series with Miami. His on-base percentage is .470, second on the team to Branden Cogswell.
Sophomore Mike Papi got the start in all three games against the Hurricanes and used them to extend his hitting streak to 11 games.
But will it continue tonight against Liberty? The No. 4 Cavaliers (25-3) get the Flames (17-11) at 6 p.m., but Papi’s left field spot could be handed back to Derek Fisher.
Fisher sprained his ankle against Towson last Wednesday, but the sophomore could return tonight.
“Derek’s getting closer,” O’Connor said Sunday. “He certainly couldn’t play today. Hopefully at some point in this next week, we have him back. He could be in there on Tuesday.
“I think the next 48 hours will tell us a lot.”
We meet again
UVa and Liberty will meet for the second time in less than a month.
On March 13, the Wahoos won, 7-2, at Davenport Field thanks to a combined five RBI from Brandon Downes, Kenny Towns and Nate Irving. Rookie starter Trey Oest went five innings, but freshman Josh Sborz worked two frames of scoreless relief.
Sborz (2-0) will get the starting nod tonight. Oest (4-0) will go Wednesday against VMI.
The Cavs will play in front of a sold-out Liberty Baseball Stadium, a venue in its first year. The game will stream live on ESPN3.com.
“It’ll be a great environment for us to play in,” O’Connor said.