The North Carolina series could wait. In the aftermath of Virginia’s 14-6 rout of Duke on Sunday, the Cavaliers had an opportunity to begin the discussion concerning their upcoming monster weekend in Chapel Hill.
But Brian O’Connor’s bunch had a schedule in hand. They knew there was still an obstacle between them and the Tar Heels.
“We have our last home game of the season Tuesday night against VCU,” the UVa coach said Sunday. “ ... Hopefully, we can finish off this home regular season on a strong note and then we’ll turn our attention down to the final ACC series.”
The No. 7 Wahoos (43-8) routed the Rams, 17-3, before 3,162 at Davenport Field.
It’s safe to flip the calendar to Thursday now.
“Certainly, you could have a little bit of concern with that,” O’Connor said, “with the huge series down at North Carolina this weekend looming. But this team has really taken an attitude all year long of not taking anybody lightly, going out there with something to proove every time we step on the field.
“I think that’s had a lot to do with our consistency. We’ve been pretty successful in the middle of the week. I think we’ve only lost one game outside of league play this year.
“This team’s been mature about that all year long, so it didn’t surprise me that we came out and played a really good ballgame.”
There was hardly anything shocking about the way Virginia dismantled VCU. Like they had in the last two games of the Duke series, the Cavs torched the opposing pitching staff.
UVa had 17 more hits on Tuesday, giving them 54 over their last three games. Their combined 48 runs in their last three games are the most over a such a stretch by a Virginia team since 2009.
“We’re really doing the job up and down the lineup,” said designated hitter Derek Fisher, who went 1-for-4 with an RBI single to extend his hit streak to 10 games. “We’re always talking about passing it on, doing your job at the plate whether it’s just getting on-base, getting a hit or getting that RBI. I think everybody’s going to the plate with the right approach. There’s a lot of guys getting on base. A lot of us can really account for each other’s success along this lineup, which I think is the best way to analyze our team.
“We help each other out.”
Against the Rams, it was the usual suspects doing damage.
New leadoff man Mike Papi went 3-for-5 with an RBI to run his ACC-best batting average to .411. Joe McCarthy continued his push for ACC Freshman of the Year honors with a 4-for-6, four-RBI evening. Nick Howard cracked the second home run of his career in the first inning, a three-run shot to left field.
“It was with two strikes and the ball was just up,” Howard said. “I kind of just ran into it. It was kind of an accident that it went over, but good things happen, I guess.”
In the field, too.
Howard, starting at shortstop for the third time since Branden Cogswell went out with a broken finger, was flawless with five assists.
The high school shortstop turned third baseman in college finally looked comfortable back in his element.
“It feels good to be making plays again at short,” Howard said. “I’m just providing a solid defensive option for our pitches. They just keep rolling ground balls and getting out of innings.”
Tuesday’s final out was recorded when George Ragsdale, in relief of Reed Gragnani at second base, cleanly fielded a Trev Marino grounder and fired over to Jared King at first base.
Let the North Carolina discussion begin.
What’s at stake? A sweep of the No. 3 Tar Heels (46-6, 20-5 ACC) and the Wahoos (20-7 ACC) take the Coastal Division.
“We’re going down there and we’re just going to play our baseball,” O’Connor said. “Hopefully, we have some success.”
Game one is 6 p.m., Thursday.