DURHAM, N.C. — The ball landed in right field and Brian O’Connor placed his foot on the dugout’s top step. Georgia Tech’s Mott Hyde hustled into second base and O’Connor motioned to home plate umpire Darrell Arnold.
Virginia’s best pitching performance of 2013 was over. To a rousing ovation from those clad in orange and blue, Scott Silverstein dropped the baseball in his manager’s hands and jogged to greet his appreciative teammates.
He finished one out away from a complete game, but lasted nearly two innings longer than any other outing in his career.
Consider it an appropriate farewell to the conference the fifth-year senior’s called home for the past half-decade.
Behind Silverstein’s gem, third-seeded Virginia kept its ACC Tournament title hopes alive with an 8-2 thumping of the seventh-seeded Yellow Jackets before 2,998 at Durham Bulls Athletic Park on Thursday afternoon.
“That’s certainly a memorable outing for him,” O’Connor said of his 6-foot-6, 240-pound left-hander. “His last ACC Tournament, to go out there and pitch 8 2/3 and pitch out of a few jams and really do a nice job. I’m very proud of him. He was very efficient.”
On 102 pitches, Silverstein gave up just two runs on a scattering of 10 hits and struck out six. He was oh-so-close to the Cavaliers’ first complete game since Branden Kline turned the trick in March 2012.
“The plan was as soon as, in the ninth inning, they got a baserunner on, Josh Sborz was going to be in the ballgame,” O’Connor of the final frame. “Scott had done his job.”
After Hyde’s double, Sborz took Silverstein’s lead and struck out Thomas Smith to finish the Jackets.
He didn’t go the distance, but the Olney, Md., native will gladly take his ninth win in 10 chances.
“I was thinking that we needed to save our bullpen the best we could for the tournament,” Silverstein said. “I just wanted to go out and throw strikes and basically try to stem the tide for the rest of the game, do what I could to give us a chance.”
In shades of what Virginia Tech did early to Brandon Waddell on Wednesday, Georgia Tech batters started the bottom of the first inning with three consecutive hits to take a 1-0 lead on Silverstein.
The Yellow Jackets (34-24) wouldn’t string together another stretch of that magnitude for the rest of the afternoon. Silverstein left five Jackets stranded.
“Scott gave up 10 hits, but he made the big clutch pitches with runners in scoring position,” O’Connor said. “That’s the difference. At this time of the year, when you’re facing good opponents and got good arms on the mound on both sides, that’s what separates whether you win or lose.
“Waddell, unfortunately, didn’t make those pitches [in Wednesday’s 10-1 loss to the Hokies] and Scott did.”
Also unlike Waddell, Silverstein got offensive support.
Less than 24 hours after Virginia Tech’s Joe Mantiply handcuffed them, the Cavs had their way with Georgia Tech starter Dusty Isaacs.
Fifth-ranked Virginia (46-10) tagged Isaacs (4-7) for six runs on six hits, including solo homers from Nick Howard, Kenny Towns and Brandon Downes.
Following a rare off-day, the ACC’s top lineup was back to form.
“We’ve been hitting the ball so well over the last two weeks since coming out of the exam break,” O’Connor said. “It’s been pretty incredible how we did against Duke and then in the middle of the week against VCU and then at North Carolina. The entire lineup was very locked in.
“I feel like we got back to that a little bit today and hopefully that can continue.”
The next opportunity is 11 a.m., Saturday, against second-seeded Florida State. At 1-1 in pool play, UVa still has a shot at Sunday’s 1 p.m. championship game.
Throw some credit Silverstein’s way.
“I always joke around with him,” Downes said. “I’m like, ‘Oh, when are they ever going to let you go more than seven innings?’ He was like, ‘Dude, I’m never going to go over seven innings.’
“And then, today, he did it. I was really happy for him. He was really big for us.”
Rounding the bases
Senior first baseman Jared King (illness) missed just his third game of the season. Towns replaced him at first, which moved Howard back to third base and freshman John LaPrise to shortstop. ... UVa will throw Whit Mayberry (4-0, 1.67 ERA) against the Seminoles. FSU will toss lefty Brandon Leibrandt (9-4, 3.30 ERA). Leibrandt took the loss in a 2-0 game at Davenport Field on April 20.