Virginia Takes Down Army
Jun 02, 2012
Brian O'Connor's team knocked off Army 9-1.
Top-seed Virginia advanced to the winner's bracket of the Charlottesville Regional with a 9-1 win over No. 4 seed Army on Saturday. All-ACC pitcher Branden Kline claimed the win by holding the Academy to one earned run over 5.2 innings.
Dick Howser Award semifinalist Chris Rowley (11-1) lost for the first time this season at Army. After the game Rowley said his performance was not up to the standards he's accustomed to delivering.
"I think mentally I just didn't prepare myself like I should have," said Rowley. "When stuff like that happens, when five walks and five hit batsmen happens, looking back on what I've done this season to that point, that just doesn't happen unless I'm not mentally engaged."
UVa freshmen Branden Cogswell and Brandon Downes combined to go 4 for 6, scoring two runs and adding four RBI while veteran Stephen Bruno added three hits and three RBI to lead the Cavalier attack. But it was the old stalwarts of Virginia postseason baseball, pitching and defense, that made the difference Saturday.
The pitching trio of Kline, Kyle Crockett and Austin Young held Army's big bats in check as Kevin McKague (.389), J.T. Watkins (.318) and Harold Earls (.346) went hitless in 10 at-bats. Army coach Joe Sottolano said a lot of the Knight's offense comes from those three hitters.
"Those are guys that have led our offense all year long and have had some quality at-bats. They looked like different hitters to me today," said Sottolano. "I thought the Virginia pitchers just threw strikes. They did a nice job of that. There wasn't anything overwhelming or particularly special. They pitched. They're well coached and threw strikes. I think we tried to do a little too much and that is my fault if I can't get them to relax and mentally prepare."
Virginia also produced some big plays defensively as well, throwing a runner out at the plate on a perfect 7-6-2 (LF Derek Fisher to SS Chris Taylor to C Nate Irving) relay and erasing Army's first base runner who was caught stealing. The Hoos also turned a huge double play in the fourth inning.
UVa faces No. 3 Appalachian State on Sunday at 3 p.m. The Mountaineers squeaked out a 5-4 win over No. 2 Oklahoma on Saturday evening.
Downs & Cogs
It seems that each year during the postseason the Cavaliers always have some new players that step up. In 2009 it was Keith Werman who brought Virginia fans some postseason heroics. In 2010 it was John Barr lighting up the scoreboard in the postseason and last year Will Roberts was Virginia's next-man up.
This season, many of Virginia's freshmen are making an impact but two especially are stroking a hot bat in crunch time. Centerfielder Brandon Downes and DH Branden Cogswell have combined to go 10 of 27 (.370) in postseason play, scoring four runs and adding eight RBI. Cogswell says it's all about the approach the first-year players are taking.
"I'd say both of us are comfortable. We're just trying to go up there being aggressive, being relaxed and not trying to do too much. I know we're seeing the ball well, staying relaxed and trying to do what we need to for the team."
While Cogswell produced the RBI, Downes was the catalyst for the Virginia offense tonight. After Colin Harrington got thrown out trying to steal second in the second inning, Downes got things going with a one-out double. He later came around to score Virginia's first run of the game. In the sixth, after Harrington was hit by a pitch, Downes' single moved a runner into scoring position as Harrington reached third on the hit. Both scored on Cogswell's three-RBI double. In Virginia's final big scoring inning, Downes led off the eighth with a single and the Hoos scored again off a Downes' hit as Mitchell Shifflett pinch ran for Downes.
O'Connor says his 'veteran' rookies are coming up big because they have a lot of confidence.
"Cogswell, Downs, those guys are fearless," O'Connor said with a big grin. "Brandon Downs isn't afraid of anything; he's going to go out there and let it rip. Both of those guys have gotten some really key, clutch hits for us. We need contributions from everyone and those kids aren't freshmen anymore. They've been up in a lot of clutch situations and come through for this team and need to continue to do that for us to advance."
Since the start of postseason play, Downes is hitting .375 (6 for 16) with two runs scored and three RBI.
Cogswell hasn't been too shabby either. He appeared in all three games of the ACC Tournament and went 3 for 9 while drawing two walks and getting plunked twice. Overall Cogswell reached base seven times in 13 plate appearances. That was true again Saturday as the freshman got one hit in two official at-bats but reached base three times in four trips to the plate.
The first of the UVa designated hitters' RBI was rather quiet as he plated Downes when Cogswell was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. His next three RBI were a little louder. With the Hoos up 3-1, the bases loaded and two outs, Cogswell smacked a bases-clearing, three-RBI double in the right-centerfield gap on Army ace Chris Rowley's first offering.
"The first pitch was a good pitch, a useable pitch and I didn't want to let another pitch go," Cogswell explained. "Off the bat it felt good. I didn't really follow the ball I just got on my horse and I was thinking two out of the box and it found the gap and was a good at-bat."
Cogswell enters Sunday's game sporting a .363 (4 for 11) postseason average with two runs scored and five RBI.
UVa starter Branden Kline posted 5 Ks in the win.
Kline does the job
Friday's weather delay that eventually postponed the region's opener until Saturday left many fans wondering if they'd see Branden Kline again this weekend. That question was answered Saturday as it was clear the Hoos were going to rely on their ace to get the 2012 regional in Charlottesville off on the right start. Kline was up to the task going 5.2 innings, his longest outing in an NCAA Tournament game.
Once it was determined that Friday's game would not be played, O'Connor says the entire coaching staff met to discuss what to do regarding bring Kline back out. For O'Connor, there was no doubt about bringing back the junior right-hander Saturday.
"Our staff had about an hour long meeting and from the start I felt the right thing to do was to send Branden back out there. I was not concerned about the fact that he did start the game [Friday] because of his experience being a closer for us I did not think it would be a difficult thing for him to do," said O'Connor. "I felt it was important for us to have our guy out there for an opportunity to win the first game of the regional."
Kline said his experience as a closer really helped him prepare for Saturday's rescheduled contest and offered him the right approach.
"I tried to treat to it like a bullpen session, what happened [Friday]," Kline said. "I threw like 20 pitches and I tried to take the positives from that and attack the zone. They got a bunch of good swings off me but my defense [was] back there to pick me up and not let any balls get through."
While not dominant Kline was certainly effective and efficient. He allowed just six hits and only one earned run. He walked a batter and fanned five; he threw 58 of his 91 pitches for strikes.
Army coach Joe Sottolano said Kline kept his hitters off balance and forced them to try to string lots of hits together to score runs - something the Knights could not do against Kline.
"I thought he did a nice job competing on his own. He didn't give us many free passes. He threw strikes. He was up in the zone a little bit and I think we took advantage of that but he threw his slider well. He has a pretty good slider," Sottolano said. "We had to get two, three hits at a time. I thought he did a great job controlling the running game as well. He was quick to the plate and didn't allow us to get big leads, which slowed us down a little bit."
This was Kline's ninth NCAA Tournament appearance and his third career start in tournament play. The start was his first start since facing Oklahoma in the deciding game of the 2010 NCAA Super Regional.
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