In his humble nature, Brandon Waddell was quick to dish out credit following his 15-strikeout performance last Friday.
The Virginia freshman left-hander called his defense “unbelievable” and then raved about his battery mate.
“[Nate] Irving, behind the plate, calls a great game,” Waddell said after UVa blanked Toledo, 15-0. “I have confidence with him. Anything that I throw, I know he’ll block. He’s always been there for me.”
Irving will be in that position at 3 p.m., today, when the No. 19 Cavaliers (7-0) host George Washington (0-5). Trey Oest will be the pitcher he’ll play catch with, a rookie righty who will attempt to extend what has already been an incredible streak.
The Virginia starting pitching staff hasn’t given up a run in 29 1/3 innings.
The group has been a foursome — Oest, Waddell, Nick Howard, Scott Silverstein — with one common denominator.
“Nate Irving had a really good year for us last year, catching practically every game for us as a true freshman,” said UVa coach Brian O’Connor. “That experience that he had last year certainly has been very valuable for him this year and for our ball club.
“He knows what we want. He knows what the pitchers need to do to have success and he’s certainly doing a great job of leading our team from behind the plate.”
Just ask Howard, who has tossed 10 scoreless innings in two starts.
“He just guides the pitchers into that zone,” said the sophomore. “With what he preaches when he comes to the mound, you feel confident after talking with him and you fill up the zone more.”
Virginia’s team ERA is 2.14.
Downes and Towns
Battling wintry conditions to this point in the season, Brandon Downes and Kenny Towns are simply getting through with summer heat.
The UVa duo, former teammates on the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters of the Northwoods League, flashed back to their summer days when they batted fourth and fifth in the order for a three-game stretch last week.
“We played summer ball together,” Downes said. “They always called it like the Downes-Towns or Towns-Downes show. So we love hitting back-to-back. It’s a lot to fun when we get to hit with each other.”
Fun for the ‘Hoos, too.
Downes, a center fielder, is third on the team in batting with a .393 average. He’s hit two home runs with 10 RBI.
Towns, the designated hitter/third baseman, leads the Cavs in home runs (three) and RBI (15).
“Both of those guys — Downes and Towns — are doing a really nice job,” O’Connor said.
Early return for Mayberry
On Feb. 16 at East Carolina, junior righty Whit Mayberry made his first appearance since Tommy John surgery last April.
O’Connor had his doubts up until the final moments.
“We really didn’t know for sure until we warmed him up down in East Carolina that he’d be able to pitch,” O’Connor said.
But he went, throwing a scoreless 2 2/3 innings in the 13-9 win. Saturday, Mayberry went another unblemished 2 2/3 innings to secure the five-hit shutout for he and Silverstein.
“We know this with Whit Mayberry, he’s going to throw strikes,” O’Connor said. “Certainly, his stuff is not there yet to where it was last year. But you know he’s going to throw the ball where he’s going to throw the ball and you know he’s going to throw strikes.”
Mayberry was UVa’s Sunday starter last season, compiling a 2-0 record with a 3.67 ERA before suffering the injury in mid-March.