Cavaliers Shut Down Seminoles
May 26, 2012
Chris Taylor slid home to score one of Virginia's seven runs. Photo Credit: Rob Kinnan/theACC.com.
GREENSBORO, N.C. - The two teams that met last season for the ACC title faced off again Saturday and while neither team will be taking home conference championship hardware in 2012, the game still had meaning for Virginia and Florida State. The Hoos wanted to erase the taste of a beat down at the hands of Georgia Tech on Friday and the Seminoles hoped to avoid going into the NCAA Tournament on a three-game losing skid. After being swept earlier in the season by FSU, the tournament rematch belonged to UVa as the Cavaliers prevailed 7-0.
Cav coach Brian O'Connor was very complementary of his team coming off Friday's 17-5 mercy-rule loss to the Jackets.
"I'm as proud of this team as I've been all year," O'Connor said in his post-game press conference. "To lose the way we did yesterday and then starting the game today knowing your title shot is gone for our guys to come out and play the way that they did shows the kind of ball club we have but most importantly it shows the character this team has."
Artie Lewicki turned in a brilliant performance on the mound for Virginia. He improved to 4-2 (4-1 in ACC games) on the strength of seven scoreless innings while scattering three hits. Lewicki recorded four strikeouts.
Florida State starter Mike Compton was solid in five innings pitched as he surrendered one earned run on six UVa hits. With Compton gone, however, Virginia broke things open with a six-run seventh inning as FSU used four pitchers in the final four frames. The loss was the Seminoles third of the tournament and it marked the first time in league history that Florida State has gone winless in the league championship tourney. The shutout was the Seminoles first since the first round of last year's ACC Tournament, a span of 67 games.
Virginia started off the scoring in the fourth inning when Derek Fisher lined a shot into right field. On a 3-2 count, coach Kevin McMullan sent Fisher and Jared King grounded a single where FSU second baseman Devon Travis had vacated. Fisher scored on Colin Harrington's sacrifice fly to center field.
The Cavaliers added insurance in the seventh with a big inning. Catcher Nate Irving drew a five-pitch walk to lead off the frame. Keith Werman then chopped a high bunt that FSU first baseman John Nogowski fielded but turned to find no one covering first. His errant throw to second got far enough away from the bag for Irving to hustle to third; that put runners at the corners. Chris Taylor walked to load the bases. With one out Stephen Bruno laced a single though the right side of the infield plating Irving to give the Hoos a 2-0 lead. With the bases loaded Werman and Taylor came around to score on Fisher's 2-RBI single. UVa added three more runs in the frame on Harrington's RBI single and Brandon Downes' 2-RBI shot down the left field line.
With a 7-0 advantage on the scoreboard, Lewicki gave way to lefty Kyle Crocket and closer Justin Thompson. That duo held the Noles in check by pitching two scoreless innings of relief.
Virginia improved to 38-17-1 on the season and FSU dropped to 43-15. With the win Virginia avoided a fourth straight loss to FSU this season. Still, the Hoos' shot at the title game evaporated earlier in the day with Georgia Tech's 5-1 win over Clemson.
The eighth-seeded Yellow Jackets swept Pool A and advanced to the ACC Tournament final for the first time since 2005 where they defeated Virginia 4-3. Tech becomes the third eighth seed to reach the conference final. No No. 8 seed has ever won the event.
Virginia, meanwhile, waits to see where it will land in next week's NCAA Tournament. The Cavaliers are expected to be awarded one of the 16 regional host sites, which will be released Sunday at 3:30 p.m. The NCAA Tournament Selection Show will air at noon Monday on ESPNU at which time the complete 64-team NCAA Tournament field will be announced.
UVa pitcher Artie Lewicki picked up the win. Photo Credit: Rob Kinnan/theACC.com.
Lewicki settling into starting role
When the 2012 season started, Coach O'Connor said the staff wasn't really sure where Artie Lewicki fit in for the Hoos. Following his sixth quality start of the year (fifth consecutive), no doubt remains. Lewicki is a solid starting pitcher for the Cavaliers.
"We knew coming into this year he was talented, didn't know for sure the role he would pitch in and he's stepped into the starter's role and he's really done a terrific job after he's got some experience under his belt," O'Connor said.
Lewicki came into the 2012 season after seeing limited action in nine games (9.1 innings) during his freshman season. Lewicki was eased into the starting role this season by making two mid-week starts and three relief appearances in his first six games. The sophomore pitcher made his first league start against Virginia Tech on March 11 where he went five scoreless innings but did not figure into the decision.
Over his first seven starts, Lewicki amassed a 5.36 ERA, a 22-9 strikeout-walk ratio and a 1-2 record. But in his last four starts he has delivered four quality outings and a 2-0 record. Lewicki has been impressive in league play where he led the team with a 2.87 ERA in nine conference starts. Opponents are hitting .230 against him and the K-BB ratio has improved to 33-10.
O'Connor said the emergence of Lewicki has been a key factor in Virginia's success over the last several weeks.
"I think it's made the difference in our club," O'Connor noted. "You've seen what we've done the last five weeks and our record in the league, and obviously there's a lot of guys that stepped up and the consistency of our bullpen has been a big part of that, but Artie's running out there on Sunday and pitching deep into the ball game and I think it's a direct correlation to the success that we've had."
Lewicki went deep again in dominating the Seminoles. Over his last two games Lewicki has not allowed an earned run in 13.2 innings and the righty had everything going Saturday. He effectively changed speeds and flashed good location on his pitches.
"I was definitely able to throw my four-seam fastball for strikes and then change-up and throw my two-seam fastball for strikes," said Lewicki. "My breaking ball was working well and I'd get ahead in the count with that and then also being able to throw that pitch late in fastball counts where I'm behind, when they're expecting the fastball, throw the curve ball."
Underclassmen impress in ACC Tournament
While veterans Jared King, Stephen Bruno, Chris Taylor and Keith Werman combined to go 8 for 38 this weekend, several Virginia underclassmen have tried to pick up the slack. Derek Fisher had a strong debut in his first ACC Championship with a .555 batting average, going 5 for 9 with three RBI. Fisher entered Saturday's game with a .500 slugging percentage (SLG) and a .625 on-base-percentage (OBP). Freshman Branden Cogswell has appeared in all three games going 3 for 9 while drawing two walks and getting plunked twice. Overall Cogswell reached base seven times in 13 plate appearances. Sophomore Colin Harrington also had a productive tournament with his 6-for-10 performance (after going 3-3 against FSU). In addition to leading his team with a .600 tournament batting average, Harrington scored three runs and knocked in three more.
"I made a little adjustment yesterday and Coach [McMullan] called two hit-and-runs today and they were executed pretty well and that gets your confidence up - especially when you get a hit in your first-at-bats, it makes the other at-bats feel a little easier for you," explained the Virginia right fielder.
The four freshmen Cogswell, Fisher, Downes and Irving tallied 12 hits, seven RBI and scored six runs. The quartet hit .324 for the tournament and drew 12 free bases - a combination of walks and hit-by-pitch plays.
The real good news for Virginia fans is that King, Bruno and Taylor all got hits Saturday as the trio had its best day in Greensboro with a 5-13 afternoon. If that carries forward along with the freshmen's production, the Hoos could be a tough out as the NCAA Tournament begins.
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