*Photo Courtesy of UVA Athletics*
The Virginia Cavaliers started hot and never cooled down on a sunny Friday afternoon in Charlottesville as the #7 overall seed began their NCAA Tournament campaign. The 'Hoos beat the Patriot League champions Army by a score of 15-1.
It started with a Griff O'Ferrall lead-off single back up the middle in the bottom of the 1st inning. Jake Gelof followed with a single of his own before ACC Player of the Year Kyle Teel drove home O'Ferrall for the game's first run. Gelof would then score on a wild pitch. Seconds later, first baseman Ethan Anderson would launch a 2-run blast over the right field wall to make it 4-0. All told, the Wahoos would end up scoring 6 runs in the 1st inning on seven hits after sending 10 batters to the plate.
"Our lineup is very talented," said Anderson after the game. "We feed off one another. We go up there with the right approach consistently giving the best shot to give the guy behind a chance to drive in runs."
UVA Coach Brian O'Connor was effusive in his praise of his team's hitting approach saying, "That's as a good as an offensive approach as I've seen against against a pitcher like their starter, knowing he was going to throw a lot of sliders and changeups to our left-handed hitters. The discipline we showed on fringe pitches and the discipline we showed against him looked like the experienced lineup that we have. Hopefully that kind of approach will continue as the arms change."
The home team would score 4 more runs in the 2nd inning to make it 10-0. They'd add runs in the 4th, 6th, 7th and 8th innings as well. O'Connor was pleased with the quick start out of the gate. "It was perfect as it can be. Edg [Edgington] went through six hitters and was pitching great and we jumped them offensively."
Brian Edgington, the graduate transfer from Elon, made the start on the mound for Virginia and was perfect. He retired all 15 batters he faced through 5 innings, striking out 4. The righty threw 42 of his 56 pitches for strikes with no hard contact from the Army hitters. It was Edgington's first career NCAA Tournament appearance after 60 career appearances in college.
After a bumpy month of so of starts, Edgington looks to be back to where he was early in the season when he was pitching well. "My gameplan doesn't really change from start to start," said the Philadelphia native. "I know I'm going to do well when I'm in the bottom of the zone and filling up the zone early and often. I think that's usually what makes me pretty good."
Despite being perfect through 5 innings and being efficient through just 56 pitches, Edgington was removed to begin the 6th inning. O'Connor explained his reasoning, saying "As the game goes on and we started to take hold of the game, he was so efficient with his pitches-- the combination of the possibility of him coming back later in the weekend and getting other pitchers out there and getting them experience was important."
When asked if he could pitch again later in the weekend if need, the Edgington replied, "We'll see how I feel but I'll be ready whenever my number is called."
This 2023 Virginia team has been special and they broke another record on Friday with the biggest postseason attendance in school history as 5, 487 fans packed the confines of Disharoon Park.
"Playing at Disharoon is the best place in the world to play," said Anderson. "Just seeing the stadium fill up just all around the stadium and having constant support from fans throughout the game was amazing."
"We've had great crowds all year," added Edgington. "We have arguably the best fans in the country. When I was done with my pre-game bullpen when I was coming in, I took a second to look around and take it all in before the game started."
Later Coach O'Connor expressed to the media that he wasn't concerned about about the crowd size when he chose to play the early game to start the Regional. "I made that decision knowing that our crowd would be there for a noon start. What an unbelievable atmosphere for a 12 o'clock noon on a Friday."
Griff O'Ferrall, Casey Saucke, and Henry Godbout led the Cavalier with 3 hits each as the team combined for 18 total hits. Ethan Anderson's first inning home run was his 12th of the year and he joined Gelof, Teel, and O'Donnell with 12 or more home runs. It's the first time in program history that Virginia has four players with 12 or more home runs in a season.
Virginia continues on in the winners' bracket and will face the winner of Oklahoma/ECU tomorrow night at 7 PM while Army will face the loser of Oklahoma/ECU at noon Saturday. Virginia will likely start Connelly Early or Nick Parker in that game.