Jared King had it lined up, hugging the right field line as Adam Frazier’s poke appeared to have a travel destination for the Virginia first baseman’s glove.
The baseball skipped and skipped as King inched closer. But then King went from a crouch to a leap.
The baseball smacked the bag, trampolining over King’s head and rattling into Mississippi State’s bullpen area. Frazier had a two-run double. King had another moment to add to his team’s frustrating afternoon.
UVa gave up a season high in hits and committed a season-high number of errors in an 11-6 loss to Mississippi State on Saturday before a sold-out Davenport Field in game one of the best-of-three Charlottesville Super Regional.
“That was a tough ballgame,” said Virginia coach Brian O’Connor. “That was as good of an offensive approach — that Mississippi State had today — as we’ve faced this year. They were pretty relentless at the plate.”
Twenty knocks confirms that statement.
The Bulldogs (47-18) entered the weekend batting .293. Their lineup featured a hits machine at the top, a first-round draft pick in the heart and an All-SEC selection at cleanup.
It took Brandon Waddell all of an inning to discover the hype was real.
MSU, courtesy of Frazier, Hunter Renfroe and Brett Pirtle, got to the Virginia freshman left-hander for a pair of runs in the first inning, foreshadowing a short outing for Waddell and long work for the Cavalier bullpen.
Waddell (6-3) lasted just 3 1/3 innings, yielding six runs on six hits. Four other UVa rookies — Josh Sborz, Nathan Kirby, David Rosenberger, Trey Oest — provided relief.
“You just got to give the credit to them,” Waddell said. “Coming out here and getting 20 hits is just a great day for everybody. So, really, all the credit goes to them.”
But the Cavs (50-11) didn’t help themselves much, either.
Of Mississippi State’s 11 runs, six were unearned.
Virginia, thanks to a Mike Papi home run and RBIs from Derek Fisher and Reed Gragnani, took a 3-2 lead into the MSU half of the third inning.
That’s when the Cavalier goofs began.
Waddell gave up consecutive singles to Renfroe and Pirtle to open the frame. A Wes Rea sacrifice bunt pushed the runners over to second and third. With one out, C.T. Bradford went with a safety squeeze that dribbled right back to Waddell, who had time to glove and toss home to nab a charging Renfroe.
But the execution never came.
“I went to field it and the ball slipped through my hand,” Waddell said.
Renfroe easily scored on the error. A batter later, Demarcus Henderson plated Pirtle with a sacrifice fly to center.
Mississippi State took a 4-3 advantage it would never give up.
“There was a little bit of that on the scouting report,” said MSU coach John Cohen, referring to a squeeze Army successfully pulled on Waddell in last week’s Regional. “All the scouting reports that we’ve gathered talked about making them field their position.”
The Bulldogs would add unearned runs in the fifth and sixth innings.
Virginia committed a season-high four errors.
“We take pride in handling the baseball a lot better than we did today,” O’Connor said. “I don’t think it had anything to do with nerves.”
In its traditional style, UVa did tease for its 24th come-from-behind win.
The ‘Hoos loaded the bases in the sixth and came away with two runs to make it a 10-6 game. The damage was lessened by MSU reliever Ross Mitchell, who induced a double play to end the threat. The left-hander then continued with the theme, getting double plays to end the seventh and eighth innings.
“We just lacked that clutch hit today,” said Virginia shortstop Nick Howard, who went 2-for-4. “We had a good approach, but just couldn’t get it done.”
The Bulldogs didn’t lack for any of the above.
MSU went 7-for-16 when batting with two outs. The Bulldogs’ 20 hits are the most given up by a UVa team since 2007.
Frazier went 6-for-6 to give him 100 hits for the season. Renfroe, the 13th overall selection by the San Diego Padres in Thursday’s MLB Draft, went 4-for-5 with three RBI. Pirtle, an All-SEC second baseman, brought in a pair of runs.
On this particular afternoon, the Davenport Field opposition was simply too overwhelming.
“Thankfully, it’s a series and you have to win two ballgames to win this thing,” O’Connor said. “Our players have done a nice job all year handling adversity and bouncing back after losses.
“This is a difficult loss, but this is what makes baseball so great — having another chance.”
Virginia will throw senior left-hander Scott Silverstein (10-1, 2.86 ERA) in tonight’s win-or-stay home game two. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. ESPNU will broadcast.