CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – No. 3 overall national seed Virginia capitalized on four Bucknell errors and scored nine unearned runs en route to a 10-1 victory over the Bison in the first game of the Charlottesville NCAA Regional Friday afternoon in front of 3,569 fans at Davenport Field. Bucknell was within striking distance until the Cavaliers scored seven runs in the sixth inning.
The fourth seed at the Regional, the Bison allowed single runs to Virginia (45-13) in each of the first three innings, but still had a chance to come back until the Cavaliers sent 12 men to the plate and scored seven runs in the bottom of the sixth. The inning turned when Bucknell (30-20-1) had the wheel play on on a sac bunt attempt by catcher Nate Irving with runners on first and second and none out. Third baseman Sam Clark fielded the bunt and nearly nailed the lead runner at third, but his throw was a little off the mark, allowing two runs to score.
Reliever Xavier Hammond came on and walked the first hitter he faced before retiring the next two in order. However, a hit by pitch followed by four consecutive singles broke the game open.
The Bison had one error in each of the first three innings, but were able to hold Virginia close, limiting the Cavaliers to one run in each frame.
“The story of the game was our defense,” commented Bucknell second-year head coach Scott Heather, who was an assistant on two Bison NCAA teams. “You can’t give a team like Virginia extra outs. None of them were difficult plays. We made them all year. It may have been a few nerves.”
Bryson Hough (8-4), who is one win shy of tying Jason Buursma for the program’s single-season record, earned the start on the mound for Bucknell and pitched solidly. The last batter he faced was Irving in the sixth inning and he was credited with 5.0 innings pitched while allowing six runs (one earned) and six hits while striking out one and walking none.
“Bryson threw the ball really well,” noted Heather. “He was on his game and if we make the plays behind him it might have been different.”
Hammond pitched to five hitters in the sixth inning, while Tom Hrabchak faced four, recording the last out with a strikeout of Irving.
Freshman Mike Castellani was excellent in the final two innings for the Bison. He faced the minimum number of hitters in the two frames and was helped out by a nice 3-6 double play turned by first baseman Rob Krentzman and shortstop Greg Wasikowski.
Wasikowski was strong defensively all game. Most notably, he made a diving stop of a hard-hit ball and threw a perfect strike to Clark at third to nail the lead runner for the second out in Virginia’s scoreless fourth inning.
Brett Smith also made a nice diving grab in center field to end the scoreless fifth inning.
Bucknell had the chance to strike first in the game as Smith drew a leadoff walk in the top of the first. After an Anthony Gingerelli fly out, Joe Ogren hit a hard grounder to first that Mike Papi could not handle. However, the ball bounced to second baseman Brandon Cogswell, whose throw back to Papi just beat Ogren. Jon Mayer then drew a two-out walk, but the Bison could not rally for a run. That was the last time they would have multiple runners on base in the same inning until loading the bases in the eighth.
Artie Lewicki (6-1) pitched seven shutout innings for Virginia and yielded just three hits. He struck out five and walked three, but just one after the first inning.
Bucknell’s lone run in the contest came in the eighth inning when Smith drew a leadoff walk and Gingerelli followed with his second hit of the game. A two-out Rob Krentzman walk loaded the bases for Clark. Reliever Connor Jones uncorked a very high wild pitch during Clark’s at bat, allowing Smith to scamper home from third to break up the shutout.
Both teams were very successful in getting the leadoff hitter on base. The Bison had the leadoff hitter on in five of their nine at bats, while the Cavaliers had the leadoff hitter on in each of the first seven innings. Five of the game’s 11 runs were scored by guys who led off an inning by getting on base.
There was not an extra-base hit recorded in the game. Virginia finished with 11 hits to Bucknell’s four, but both teams left eight men on base.
John La Prise and Papi had three hits apiece for Virginia, while Gingerelli’s two singles led the Bison.
The Bison, who are making their first NCAA appearance since 2010, will continue play at the double-elimination Regional Saturday at 2 p.m. against third-seeded Liberty, the loser of Friday evening’s contest against Arkansas. The game can be seen on ESPN3.com. A live audio broadcast will be available via BucknellBison.com.