Well, that could have gone better. Regardless, let's celebrate this season, and especially this junior class. What follows is a recap of the game, but we will have more perspective laden pieces later.
Virginia opened with an aggressive game plan, getting first pitch singles from their first two batters of the game (Haseley and Pinero). However, three-hole hitter Matt Thaiss grounded out to Tyler Campbell on a 3-1 pitch, Buehler struck out Towns on a perfect curve, pitched around (and consequently walked) Pavin Smith, and with the bases loaded, Buehler threw three straight balls to DH Robbie Coman. Luckily, Buehler settled down and threw three consecutive strikes, inducing a weak fly to dead center field, ending the inning.
In the bottom half, Tim Corbin's line-up change showed immediate dividends, as Bryan Reynolds was patient at the plate, and worked a four pitch lead-off walk. Rhett Wiseman followed with an opposite field double that was lost in the sun by UVA LF Kevin Doherty, moving Reynolds to third. Dansby Swanson hit a slow roller to third, but Reynolds was going on contact, and scored the first run of the game. Zander Wiel followed with a foul home run on a cutter middle in. On the next pitch, he hugged the line again, but on the fair side, plating Rhett Wiseman with a double past the diving glove of third baseman Kenny Towns giving the Dores a 2-0 first run lead.
The top of the 2nd was not nearly as eventful, as Buehler opened with a K on Joe "Better Dead than Red" McCarthy, induced a weak grounder to 2nd, and struck out Clement on a gorgeous back-up curve.
Haseley led off the 3rd with a hard-fought walk. Pinero followed with an easy double play ball, but Haseley interfered with Campbell's relay throw by popping up and putting his head in the path of the ball. Had anything followed, we'd be having a healthy debate about the technical aspects of base-runner interference (let me solve it for you: it was legal, but at least a little bit dirty), but luckily, Buehler induced a double play to Matt Thaiss immediately afterward. No harm, no foul.
In the top of the 5th, two consecutive third strikes called balls allowed Towns to walk. Pavin Smith followed with a game tying 2 run HR, and I yelled every expletive that has ever existed. Another missed strike three call walk later, and Corbin went to the pen.
John Kilichowski was greeted with an equally abhorrent strike zone, but Dansby Swanson made a heads up play on a Joe McCarthy line drive to third that bounced off Will Toffey's glove. Swanson made an instinctual play and threw out the runner at 2nd for the first out of the inning. Swanson then made a diving play to force out McCarthy. He made an equally fantastic instinctive play to touch a bunt out of bounds which looked like it might spin back fair down the third base line. K-chow got Clement to ground out two pitches later to end the inning.
Penn Murfee proved his worth in the bottom of the 4th, when he turned a one out single into a double on a great read of the outfielder. Murfee then advanced to third on a Delay pop up to the first baseman in foul territory. Tyler Campbell nearly had his first "Mr. June" moment since last year, but it was not to be, as Kenny Towns dove to catch a liner down the third base line, popped up, and gunned him down by half a step at first. Again, all the expletives came forth from my mouth.
RHP Colin Snider came into the game in the top of the 5th, with 2 on and 1 out. All he needed was one pitch to get Kenny Towns to fly out. Corbs then went to Ben Bowden, who had thrown the previous two nights, who let up the lead with a run scoring single through the 6 hole to Pavin Smith to make it 3-2 UVA. Tyler Campbell then made a phenomenal play on a liner up the middle to end the inning, and keep another run from scoring.
Kyle Wright got the ball in the 6th, as Corbin was trying his hardest to get the momentum to shift. Wright threw a 1-2-3 6th, but Waddell continued to soft-toss his way through our lineup.
In the 7th, the umpires (expletives coming) continued to fuck us raw, as Daniel Pinero clearly interfered with Jason Delay on a bunt, but it wasn't called. They discussed it, and decided they hate us. This led to another Kenny Towns RBI, and UVA took a 4-2 lead.
In the bottom of the inning, Waddell continued to soft-toss his way through our lineup. Unfortunately, our Achilles Heel became more apparent the more tired Waddell became. As he lost ticks off the radar gun, we looked worse.
In the 8th inning, Brian O'Connor did the right thing and took out Waddell. He had thrown over 100 pitches, and his velocity was dropping. Nathan Kirby came in a closed it out with his wipe-out slider. There's nothing more to say.
Penn Murfee continued to justify his spot in the lineup with a 2 out, 2 strike base hit, keeping us alive. However, Nathan Kirby's slider was too much, and it froze pinch hitter Kyle Smith at the plate for the final out.
This one hurts, but not as much as it would have if we lost last year. Celebrate. We got to the Finals two years in a row. This junior class gave us the best baseball a fan could ever want.
You got to see Dansby Swanson, Carson Fulmer, Walker Buehler, Philip Pfeifer and the rest. They made us proud. They won a damned title. Sure, they didn't win two, but they did come within two soft-tossing lefties of doing just that.
And you know what? We've got Bryan Reynolds and three Freshman All Americans coming back. We've got Hayden Stone coming back from injury. We've got Tennessee's Mr. Baseball Donny Everett and the equivalent of two #1 overall recruiting classes coming in to give us a few more shots at a title over the next three years.
Strap yourselves in, people. The ride's not over.