The glow of the Richmond victory was basically off Brian O’Connor by the time he met with media members Tuesday night.
In less than 24 hours, the Virginia coach knew what was coming to Davenport Field.
“JMU’s got a really good offensive ballclub,” O’Connor said. “They got some pretty gaudy offensive numbers. We’ll be challenged.”
Despite a record that dipped below .500, the Dukes, on paper, were as competitive as any team when it came to offense. A team batting average of .318. Nearly eight runs a game. The reigning national player of the week in right field.
But after a 16-8 slugfest of a win, the No. 5 Wahoos realized they don’t mind puncturing baseballs either.
UVa rocked James Madison for 16 hits, exposing the Dukes’ biggest weakness — a team ERA of 6.13.
“It took a great effort from our offense,” O’Connor said. “We capitalized on a lot of opportunities, had a number of big innings — three really big innings in that ballgame — and we needed it.”
It’s not like the ‘Hoos were strangers to slugging. After all, they had 12 hits in the 6-2 Richmond win on Tuesday. They put together a combined 16 runs in a weekend sweep of Florida State.
But, Wednesday, they did it with a refreshing consistency.
Virginia (37-6) scored five runs in the first, four in the fourth, two in the sixth and a dagger five-spot in the eighth.
Six of the nine starters had at least two hits. Brandon Downes and Reed Gragnani combed for seven RBI.
And, yes, this all came without Joe McCarthy, the .306-hitting right fielder who missed a second straight game with a jammed finger.
“We got a lot of guys that can come through and a lot of guys off the bench that are ready to go,” said Downes, who went 3 for 4 with a towering solo home run. “Even with Joe being out for a game or two, it’s not that big of a deal because we know somebody can field his spot.
“But as soon as he comes back, it’s going to be like he hasn’t been gone.”
McCarthy could very well return for this weekend’s series at Virginia Tech (25-17, 9-12 ACC). The Hokies, as evident by their .425 slugging percentage, don’t mind mashing, either.
But if Wednesday was any indication, the Cavs are well-prepared for a hit-off.
UVa took a 5-0 first inning lead, but actually trailed by a run after the third inning. By the end of the sixth, the Cavaliers were back up by four.
“You could see in the first half of the game, when James Madison took the lead 6-5, that our offense was aware we needed to be good tonight and at our best,” O’Connor said. “It’s great to see them recognize that and go out there and have a lot of quality at-bats — get 16 hits and drive in big runs.
“That’s what a good team does.”
JMU (18-22) got to see five UVa pitchers. Starter Trey Oest lasted just 2 2/3 innings. The freshman gave up five runs on four hits. In his last three outings, Oest has yielded 16 runs.
He was relieved by fellow rookie Nathan Kirby, who gave up a three-run shot in the third inning that turned the 5-3 Cavalier lead into that 6-5 deficit.
It wasn’t until the steady Austin Young (5-0) came on in the fifth when things settled down. The junior righty scattered two hits and a run over 2 1/3 innings.
Kyle Crockett worked another six-out save, his 10th of the season.
The Dukes, backed by .400-hitting right fielder Colby Roberts, came as advertised.
“JMU’s got one of the top offensive lineups in this country,” O’Connor said. “Give them credit. They put some runs together.”