I tell you what - it's probably actually more nerve-racking to watch baseball games unfold on Gametracker than it is watching them on TV. Cause you never know when the next pitch is gonna happen. Might be now, or it might be three minutes from now and then it's gonna give you four quick ones in a row. And sometimes the damn thing ain't even right. This baseball version seems to be OK enough, but I still have very annoying memories of the time the Yahoo gametracker thing told me we'd hit a game-winning three-pointer against VT only to find out a few minutes later it was a game-tying bucket, and yes, we lost big in OT.
Anyway, Gametracker it was for me this weekend, for two games that were pretty much blowouts and two games that were way closer than they should have been. So here's what happened over the weekend:
Friday: UVA 15, VCU 4
Cody Winiarski gets the start for the Hoos and is quickly staked to a 7-1 lead at the expense of VCU's not-so-scary-after-all ace, Seth Cutler-Voltz. Winiarski doesn't last as long as we'd ideally like, frittering away half that lead in the fourth inning and forcing Brian O'Connor to bring in shutdown long reliever Tyler Wilson. Wilson puts an end to any more VCU thoughts of ever again arriving safely at second base, let alone scoring; he breezes through three full innings, by which time the lead is large enough that backup infielder and sometimes-pitcher Corey Hunt - he of the ten IP all year - is brought in to finish the last two, which he does as the UVA bats continue to give the scoreboard operator something to do. All nine UVA starters get at least one hit, and the 5/6/7 hitters (Parker, Hicks, and Cannon) combine for nine hits, nine runs, and eight RBI.
Saturday: UVA 13, Ole Miss 7
The Hoos jump on Ole Miss starter Aaron Barrett for 7 runs, leading Rebs fans to lament that if their second starter can't last three innings, they're really screwed going forward. (They were right: in the next game, Ole Miss starter David Goforth failed to get out of the first inning enroute to giving up eight of St. John's 20 runs.) Danny Hultzen fails to be Hultzen-esque, giving up six runs in six innings. He gets the win anyway, and Branden Kline slams the door after making an oops pitch on a full count to the first batter. For the second game in a row, every UVA starting hitter collects a hit. Most collect two. John Barr collects four in four at bats and somehow manages to never score.
Sunday: St. John's 6, UVA 5
Well damn. UVA had just racked up 28 runs in 2 games and was facing a pitcher with an ERA north of 6; this was supposed to be the crowning slaughter. Instead we get a game that wasn't really as close as it looked. Other than a five-run fourth, UVA's bats were held mostly silent, and Robert Morey immediately gave back two of them in the bottom half of the inning. Despite this, UVA clung to a 5-4 lead through three and a half more innings, until St. John's slugger extraordinaire (who is a FRESHMAN and has TWENTY-FOUR HOME RUNS) delivered his second souvenir of the day into the outfield bleachers. Or maybe beyond. That was the margin of victory, and of course it came with two outs.
Monday: UVA 5, St. John's 3
Since we couldn't seem to figure out how to hit the ball past the outfielders, O'Connor resorted to some small ball. Sacrifices, double steals, and the ever-popular UVA classic, grounding into inning-ending double plays with the bases loaded, resulted in getting runs one at a time. Better than barely getting them at all, though. Branden Kline pitched 5 1/3 excellent innings and Kevin Arico had his longest outing of the year. Why longest? Because Brian O'Connor is a smart baseball man, not a dummy. UVA was sitting on a 4-1 lead in the top of the 6th; unfortunately, the bases were loaded and St. John's had Baltzey at the bat. You do not keep your closer around for the 9th inning if the game is about ready to be lost in the 6th. O'Connor brought in Arico to face Baltz, and Baltz grounded weakly to second; too weakly, as the Hoos didn't manage to get the double play and a run scored anyway. UVA escaped the inning with a 4-3 lead, which would prove to be enough as Arico has balls the size of coconuts.
- Should you be worried about the bats? No, not really. Most of the time, the hits were there when we needed them. Oklahoma's starting pitching is a little bit meh for a one-seed, so we'll get our offense.
- Should you be worried about Danny Hultzen? Absolutely. An ERA that's ballooned about a full point in the last month or so is cause for concern, and his last few outings haven't been great. You live and die with your ace, so he'll be out there for Game 1 on Saturday; let's hope he's good for six or seven strong ones.
- St. John's is going to be a very, very good team next year.
- Again: Props to O'Connor for bringing in the fireman when it mattered. The game was won right there in the sixth-inning with the go-ahead run at the plate and 24 home runs under his belt. It may seem like the no-brainer, but with the bats steadily going cold, it's too risky to bring in anyone but your best; nevertheless, some managers -big-league ones, too - will insist on the notion that if you have a closer, he's a 9th-inning guy only. No, you bring him in when you need the big guns, and if that's as early as the 6th, so be it.
- More on Oklahoma on Friday. For now, give a shout to your regional champs.