With a single flick of the wrist, Nic Kent reversed the Virginia baseball team’s fortunes Tuesday night.
The Cavaliers entered the game against Radford reeling, having been suffered a three-game sweep at home by ACC rival Miami over the weekend.
Then Kent, on the first pitch he saw of the contest, muscled Radford right-hander Hunter Williams’ offering into the left-field seats. The first-inning solo homer gave Virginia a lead it wouldn’t relinquish in the 6-3 win.
“Anybody that knows enough about baseball knows the percentages that if you score first in this game, you have a much higher percentage chance of winning the ball game,” Coach Brian O’Connor said. “To be able to get on that scoreboard first was big.”
Kent, a Charlottesville native, went 2-for-4 with two RBI. The second baseman singled in the final run of what was a three-run sixth inning. Right fielder Alex Tappen also recorded two hits for the Cavaliers, who were outscored 14-8 in the weekend series against Miami.
Left-hander Billy Price started the game for Virginia (22-16), and after three scoreless innings — his longest outing of the season — he handed the ball to Zach Messinger.
The final three innings were pitched by right-hander Devin Ortiz, who missed Sunday’s game due to a violation of team rules, along with Mike Vasil and Brendan Rivoli. Ortiz was virtually flawless until the ninth, when he allowed a two-run homer off the bat of Radford catcher Will Harless.
There would be more trouble. Ortiz allowed a pair of singles before earning a strikeout for the second out of the frame. Radford pinch-hitter Jimmy Goldsmith then popped a single over the Cavaliers’ defense, but he was thrown out trying to advance to second base, ending the game.
Virginia resumes ACC play Thursday when Florida State comes to Charlottesville for the start of a three-game series. The Cavaliers are still in contention to make the conference tournament, but they’ll need to avoid falling too much further in the standings to stay afloat.
“They understand what the big picture is, they understand what our positioning is right now, and the big picture what we need to do to be successful,” O’Connor said.
Virginia will likely need a strong finish to the regular season, and maybe an ACC Tournament title, to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the second season in a row.
“We definitely don’t want that feeling again,” Tappen, a sophomore, said. “The newcomers also understand what happened last year. And guys like Billy are going to do whatever they can to help the team get to where we want to go.”