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Resilient 'Hoos Avoid Shocker Upset Bid

On a night where #13 Virginia’s stars struggled offensively, the lineup showed its resilience through two rain delays and extra innings to walk off Wichita State, 5-4. Shocker ace Caden Favors was dominant, going 6.2 innings and only giving up one earned run to a Virginia offense that had scored 50 runs through their first four games.

“Man did [Favors] pitch a fantastic ballgame,” said Virginia head coach Brian O’Connor after the game. “He made a lot of big pitches and did an outstanding job.”

Evan Blanco looked sharper in his second start of the year, but still had some rough moments. Wichita struck first in the second inning thanks to a Davin Johnson two out single that drove in Jaden Gustafson from second to make it 1-0.

Virginia, which only had two extra base hits the entire night, were able to tie the game in the bottom of the 4th with some two out magic of their own. Luke Hanson hit a sharp grounder past the diving shortstop to score Casey Saucke from third. 

“We got a lot of grinders in our lineup,” said UVA first year Henry Ford. 

Despite going down 3-1 in the fifth and seeing their starter chased from the game, the ‘Hoos lineup continued to grind out at bats and put pressure on the opposing pitchers. Henry Godbout got on via an error by Wichita St shortstop Darnell Parker Jr, and managed to score with two outs when 9-hole hitter Bobby Whalen singled him home in the 6th. 

But as much as Virginia kept grinding, the Shockers kept clinging to a one run lead. In the top of the 8th, WIchita had runners on first and second with just one out. Brian O’Connor called on lefty Blake Barker to get Virginia out of the inning and keep the deficit at just one run.

"The key moment in the game was when Barker came in," said O'Connor. "They were mounting in an inning and he came in and did a nice job."

As Barker came off the mound following a massive strikeout to keep the score at 3-2, stadium staff ran onto the field to pull the tarp on as rain began to pour down from the skies for the second time that day. The delay would last 1:43 minutes before Virginia would get another chance to bat.

“I brought the team together right before we resumed play,” O’Connor said about the second rain delay. “I reminded them that it doesn’t matter what’s happened before this point in the game. We have a special opportunity in front of us and we either take advantage of it or we don’t.”  

Virginia took advantage as soon as play resumed thanks to a pair of singles from Henry Godbout and Bobby Whalen to put runners on the corners with two outs.

“Our hitters in the last three innings or so really grinded out a bunch of at bats,” O’Connor said.

Griff O’Ferrall, one of VIrginia’s stars, stepped up to the plate with a chance to tie the game. With Whalen taking off on the pitch, O’Ferrall hit a sharp grounder to short. His speed threat may have played in the error that followed, as Parker’s throw to first took Ryan Callahan off the bag and the ball fell out of his glove as he attempted to tag O’Farrell. Godbout scored easily from third and the game was tied. 

Neither team would threaten in the 9th and the two teams headed to extra innings. Derek Williams launched a no doubt solo home run to left off Aidan Teel to once again put Virginia in a losing position.  They would either take advantage of it or they wouldn’t.

With the bases loaded and one out, freshman Henry Ford, who attended his first Virginia game at just six months old, stepped up to the plate hoping to tie the game. 

“I was trying to see a ball up and really just drive the ball in the air,” the Charlottesville local said. “I saw it up and tried to drive in the air.”

The right handed first baseman, who already had four extra base hits on the young season, drove a ball deep to the right center field gap, seemingly destined to be a sacrifice fly to tie the game. But then it kept sailing, hitting off the outfield wall as Ford sprinted around first, a fist raised in the air. Whalen and Anthony Stephan crossed home plate and the UVA dugout exploded. Every player dressed in orange ran at full speed to the local kid, chasing him into left field before they finally caught him.

“To do it for this team and this program, it means a lot to me,” he said. “I grew up a big fan having grown up in Charlottesville.”

Henry Ford is emerging as Virginia’s newest star. In his first fives games he’s delivered again and again. He seems to live for the “special opportunities.” While UVA did have 13 hits on the day, they only had two extra base hits. Both of them were doubles from the local boy.  

Virginia next plays against #15 Iowa on Saturday afternoon at 4pm.

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