Despite coming into the NCAA Tournament and Columbia Regional as the second to last seed and losing the first game of double elimination pool play, the Hoos have fought tooth and nail and now find themselves in the final game of the Regional Championship against Old Dominion.
Tonight at 5:06 in Columbia, South Carolina and on ESPNU, the Cavaliers will take the field to try to double dip the Monarchs and win their fourth game in just three days to advance to the Super Regional. While the game was initially scheduled for 7:00, incoming rain forced the game to move up two hours.
But if that wasn’t enough excitement, here’s where things get tricky:
Because of the fast-paced nature of the NCAA tournament, along with regular use, the Cavalier Bullpen is thin. Very thin. Despite phenomenal performances over the weekend, including a record-setting outing from Brandon Neeck (5.2 IP, 16Ks), one of the team’s greatest strengths could be a point of weakness tonight.
Along with the regular rotation, the Hoos will also likely be without Blake Bales, who pulled himself out of the game Sunday with an apparent injury, and Griff McGarry, who had to leave after bursting a blister on his throwing hand.
In their place, and in a somewhat shocking turn of events, 1B/DH Devin Ortiz will take the mound for the Cavaliers tonight. This will be the first time that we see Ortiz in the field all tournament, as he has been in the DH role because of the torn labrum in his left shoulder.
Ortiz does come in with some experience, though. He was the only two-way player for the Hoos in 2018 and 2019. In 2019, he finished 4-0 on the mound with a 1.78 ERA over 35 ⅓ innings.
On the opposing side will be the ace for the Monarchs, Hunter Gregory. Gregory is 8-2 on the season and boasts a 3.16 ERA.
In short, it’s going to be a battle when the Hoos take the field at 5:06 tonight. Time and time again they’ve done it but the question is: Is there one more miracle left in Columbia?