CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The 11th-ranked Virginia Cavaliers Baseball team (31-9, 10-8 ACC) defeated in-state rival James Madison (18-18, 3-9 CAA) 7-2 behind sophomore starter Daniel Lynch’s first career complete game Wednesday evening at Davenport Field.
On a glum night in Charlottesville, Lynch’s performance was anything but, as the sophomore lefthander dazzled with a nine-inning, seven-strikeout performance in front of a crowd of 3,100 strong.
Head Coach Brian O’Connor praised Lynch postgame, calling his outing, “terrific.”
“To go out and throw a complete game anymore in college baseball is really special. Early in the game he had a couple of walks and his command wasn’t great, but in the middle innings he settled in and the back part of the game was in complete command. I’m really proud of him. He gave us the lift we need going into a conference weekend,” lauded O’Connor.
Lynch was able to settle in nicely thanks in part to a 10 batter, 5-run 2nd inning that began with a Pavin Smith lead-off triple to right field. Smith was immediately driven in on a Robbie Coman sacrifice fly to right. A hit batter, two walks, two singles, and an Adam Haseley double resulted in four more Cavaliers crossing the plate.
UVA’s lefty starter acknowledged that the early offensive output put him at ease out on the mound.
“When you go up that much you kind of settle into a groove and try and throw everything for a strike. … If you give up a base hit here and there it’s not a big deal. I think that also contributed to me being able to go deeper into the game. I was able to just throw everything around the plate and fortunately we played really good defense tonight. You get rewarded when you’re around the plate because guys will get themselves out,” Lynch said.
After UVA plated another runner in the 4th, JMU finally put a chink in Lynch’s armor in the top of the 5th when Kyle McPherson and Brett Johnson strung a pair of singles together to push across the Dukes’ first run.
UVA got the run back in the bottom of the 6th, bringing the score to 7-1 in UVA’s favor, when an Ernie Clement single drove in Nate Eikhoff, who had reached base on a leadoff walk.
Leadoff free passes were a motif in this game for the JMU pitching staff, as the Dukes’ five pitchers combined to hit or walk the first batter in four out of eight innings pitched. JMU’s pitchers handed out 10 free bases on the evening – seven bases on balls and three hit batters – but surrendered only six hits, the same number allowed by Lynch.
Adam Sisk did all he could in an effort to smear Lynch’s gem as he tallied a 2-out 8th inning solo blast to left field, but Lynch did not let the homer get to him, retiring the next batter to end the inning on a flyout to right.
With a pitch count of 108, Lynch’s return for the 9th seemed to be in question, but O’Connor had full confidence in his lefty to finish the mission.
O’Connor’s decision to send Lynch out for the 9th proved to be the right one as the sophomore starter sent the Dukes down in order, ending the game in style by retiring JMU’s Ryan Lynch on a strikeout looking.
The Hoos will host ACC-foe Notre Dame this weekend for a three-game series at Davenport Field. Game one of the series is set to take place Friday evening at 6 P.M.