To Brian O’Connor’s right was one of his top sluggers, a regular to this stage. To his left was his most versatile player, an experienced face in front of a camera. But to O’Connor’s far left was a quiet relief pitcher, a bright-eyed newbie to the interview room.
Virginia’s Sunday night postgame scene featured O’Connor, the Cavaliers’ coach for 10 years, seated next to designated hitter Derek Fisher and shortstop Nick Howard. Though only sophomores, this duo was hardly in an unfamiliar position. Their individual performances had led to plenty of media opportunities throughout their two seasons.
However, maybe the Charlottesville Regional title game’s best story was tucked in the corner farthest from his coach.
David Rosenberger, all 5-foot-11, 185 pounds of him, threw five scoreless innings in UVa’s 11-3 rout of Elon before 3,792 at Davenport Field.
The freshman earned his first trip to the podium.
“I’m just excited I got the opportunity and I’m glad that I pitched well,” Rosenberger said humbly. “Hopefully, it continues through next weekend in the Super Regionals.”
Virginia’s 2013 rookie class came up big during the three-day Regional taking. Friday starter Brandon Waddell gave up one run in seven innings in the 2-1 win over Amy. Reliever Josh Sborz didn’t allow a base runner in the seventh inning against Elon on Saturday nor in the ninth against the Phoenix on Sunday. Right fielder Joe McCarthy, the ACC Freshman of the Year, reached base nine times in 14 plate appearances.
And then there was Rosenberger.
A left-hander out of Bethlehem, Pa., Rosenberger was recruited by UVa because he could precisely locate three pitches — fastball, change-up, breaking ball.
“When we signed David Rosenberger, we knew that he was a strike thrower,” O’Connor said, “we knew that he had an ability to throw a few different pitches for strikes.
“He had pitched at a high level of travel baseball, where it was very, very competitive. So he had pitched against some really good clubs in high school through his travel team.”
Prior to Sunday, Rosenberger had seen the likes of North Carolina, Florida State and Clemson at the college level. His appearance count was at 18, but none came as early in the game or were more pressure-packed.
Through three innings, starter Whit Mayberry had the Cavs in a 3-0 hole. The righty was struggling to hit his spots, prompting a dugout discussion between O’Connor and pitching coach Karl Kuhn.
“[Kuhn] loves Whit Mayberry, I love Whit Mayberry,” O’Connor said, “but the right decision to make at that time was to change the momentum of the game and get a different guy in there. That was Coach Kuhn’s suggestion to do that and I got to give him a ton of credit.
“He was emphatic about making that move.”
Rosenberger came to the mound in the fourth inning. He didn’t leave until after the eighth. It marked his career-long outing by a full two frames.
He struck out four, walked none, yielded two hits and faced the minimum of 15 batters.
“I just tried to stay ahead of hitters and throw strikes,” Rosenberger said. “I wasn’t really too concerned about when I was going to be pulled from the game or what the bullpen was doing. I was just trying to focus on my game.”
In the opposing dugout, fear started to creep in as soon as the southpaw began his warm-up tosses.
“[Rosenberger] threw left-handed,” said Elon coach Mike Kennedy. “When they were throwing a right-hander, we knew. We hit right-handers. We’ve done it all year. We knew we had a shot.
“And when they turned that guy [Mayberry] around and brought the other one in, we knew we might be in trouble. That’s just our club. That’s the way we’ve been.
“We had a few good swings on him, but he settled in and kept us off-balance. You got to give him credit.”
The Phoenix, with five lefties in its lineup, struggled against UVa left-handers Scott Silverstein and Kyle Crockett in Saturday’s 2-0 loss. Rosenberger gave it an unwanted flashback on Sunday.
“We didn’t make the move for that reason,” O’Connor said, “but I was aware of that.”
And now Wahoo fans are aware of a new visitor to the press room.
Newsflash: David Rosenberger has a 1.19 ERA.
“He doesn’t beat himself,” O’Connor said. “He changes speeds, he throws strikes and he’s done a nice job.”
The Cavaliers (50-10) will host Mississippi State (46-18) in the Super Regional. Game one is 1 p.m., Saturday. ESPN2 will broadcast.