The #12 Virginia Cavaliers (3-1) kicked off their season with a four game homestand that included a three-game weekend series against UCONN (1-2) and ended Tuesday afternoon with a matchup against the VMI Keydets (0-1).
Friday afternoon, the Cavaliers kicked off the 2021 season at home for the first time since 2009. Senior Andrew Abbott had a career day on the mound. In just his fourth appearance as a starter, the left-handed senior did not allow a single run over his 5.2 innings of work. Additionally, Abbott struck out nine UCONN batters, setting a new career high.
On offense, the Cavaliers were efficient with their baserunners, only collecting four hits and drawing four walks in the game. In the first inning, with the bases loaded, Logan Michaels stood in front of an 0-2 fastball, allowing the first Wahoo run of the season to cross home plate. An RBI groundout by senior Alex Tappen, gave the Cavaliers a 2-0 lead over the Huskies. This would be all the run support the Cavalier pitching staff would need as the bullpen would hold the Huskies to just one hit, a solo home run, en route to a 2-1 victory.
After a low scoring game to open the season, both teams came ready to hit on Saturday. A two-out single by UCONN 3B Chris Brown scored two runs for the Huskies, giving them their first lead of the season. UVA would quickly respond with a three-run fifth inning, thanks to a bases clearing double by INF Zack Gelof.
The Wahoos would step up to the plate in the ninth, finding themselves down by three runs. With the bases loaded, 3B Devin Ortiz lifted a routine pop fly out to right field, but it was dropped by UCONN outfielder Kyler Fedko. However, UCONN closer Caleb Wurster was able to escape the jam to get the Huskies their first victory of the season, a 10-9 nailbiter against the Cavaliers.
On Sunday, the Cavaliers would earn their first series victory of the season, after defeating the Huskies 4-2. Just two batters into the bottom of the first, Nic Kent scored the first run of the game on a single by Marc Lebreux. Mike Vassil pitched an impressive six innings, allowing just one unearned run, while striking out six Huskies.
Virginia would never trail in the series rubber-match, as three Cavaliers (Nic Kent, Marc Lebreux, and Devin Ortiz) put forth multi-hit efforts, with the trio bringing in two of UVA’s four runs. Closer Stephen Schoch, recently named to the “Stopper of the Year” watch list, earned his second save of the season, after working around a fielding error to earn his second save of the season.
In the last game of the homestand, the Cavaliers welcomed the VMI Keydets to Disharoon Park on Tuesday afternoon. The visitors got off to a fast start Tuesday, using a three run second inning to get ahead of the Wahoo’s. This would be the last time VMI would hold a lead throughout the game. The Cavaliers offense would overpower the Keydet pitching staff, pouring in 14 runs over the next seven innings.
Preseason All-Americans Zack Gelof and Chris Newell went deep for their first home runs of the season, with Newell hitting a grand slam in the sixth inning. Virginia used the blowout victory as a chance to get playing time for their bullpen with eight pitchers appearing in the 14-5 victory.
The 2021 Cavaliers have gotten off to a strong start this season. Brian O’Connor’s unit has high expectations for this year, so this three-win homestand is a step in the right direction. The Wahoos will look to continue their early season success when they travel to face ACC Rival UNC (4-0) in a three game series that kicks off this Thursday at 4:00 pm.