The first five games of the Virginia baseball season cruised along like a Scott Silverstein fastball — full of heat with a predictable result.
No. 25 UVa had its way with East Carolina (twice), Saint Peter’s, William & Mary and Toledo and didn’t drench their caps in sweat doing so. Wins came by a nine-run margin.
But Brian O’Connor knew the routs wouldn’t continue.
“Baseball is a funny game,” the Cavalier skipper said Tuesday after an 11-2 beating of the Tribe. “Those hits aren’t going to drop all the time. There’s going to be a 2-1, 3-2, 4-3 ballgame in the very near future for us at some point.
“I think it still comes back to where you got to play good defense and you got to get that strong pitching.”
Saturday, under sunny Charlottesville skies for a change, the Wahoos got that said test.
They passed by executing the fundamentals of the game O’Connor voiced earlier in the week.
Virginia is 6-0 after a 5-0 victory over the Rockets that reminded those in the UVa clubhouse of future grinders in the ACC.
“That’s how conference games are going to be,” Silverstein said. “It’s great to go out there and score 10 runs, but that’s not going to happen often.
“Early in the season, for our team to get tested, I thought it was good.”
The redshirt senior led the charge by working 6 1/3 shutout innings. Silverstein (1-0) struck out four and issued two walks. No Rocket got to third base under his rule, which ended after 88 pitches.
“I thought he was really in good command of the game,” O’Connor said. “I thought he had really good stuff today.”
But, unlike the first five games, there wasn’t any offense backing it up.
Through five innings, Virginia had all of three hits and no runs. It was a bit handcuffed by Toledo starter Kyle Shaw. The lefty, combining three pitches, tamed a Wahoo lineup that entered the day batting .361 and on the heels of a 15-run outburst in game one of the series.
“He had a really good change-up,” said Cavalier center fielder Brandon Downes. “He was using that pretty well. He was going fastball, change-up, staying away. He really wasn’t coming in. And occasionally, he would throw his slider.
“I don’t know. We were hitting him pretty good. We just couldn’t get them to fall in the beginning.”
Finally, Kenny Towns broke the slump with a run-scoring triple in the sixth. Shaw was finished after the frame.
And so were the Rockets (1-3).
Downes provided the insurance shot off reliever Andrew Marra. It was an eighth-inning three-run bomb to the trees in left-center that came moments after Toledo chose to intentionally walk Derek Fisher.
“I was just like, ‘I got to make it hurt. I got to try to do something,’” Downes said. “And then I was just trying to look for a ball up in the zone — and I got it.”
Downes’ second homer in four games was more than enough breathing room for Whit Mayberry. The redshirt junior right-hander, who’s less than a year removed from Tommy John surgery, mastered a harmless ninth to earn the 2 2/3-innings save.
Silverstein and Mayberry combined on a five-hitter.
“Whit energized us when he came in there,” O’Connor said. “It’s just a great story. Last year, in the middle of the year, he has arm surgery and we don’t know when he’s going to be back.
“All of a sudden, he’s back the first weekend at ECU and he’s back out there pitching on our mound today and looks really, really good.
“I thought the combination of those two guys was very good today.”
Nick Howard will get the 1 p.m. start Sunday as Virginia aims for the sweep.
UVa hasn’t allowed a run in 18 innings. Cavalier starters haven’t allowed a run in 25 1/3 innings.
“We don’t really worry about it,” O’Connor said with a grin about the scoreless streak. “Nick obviously had a good outing on Tuesday [six innings, five hits, no runs]. He was very efficient in that outing. He only threw 60 pitches, which allows him to come back tomorrow.
“We pretty much have a full bullpen tomorrow.”