Shortly after 9 p.m. Tuesday night, Riley Wilson swung open the door to the Disharoon Park bullpen and took stock of the stadium that has long felt like home.
The Virginia left-hander peaked over to the hill sloping above the third-base line, where young children ran free.
“That was me,” Wilson said. “I had come from the little kid pestering everybody for a ball, to being here [for] 100 years.”
The redshirt senior, whose brother, Tyler, pitched for UVa from 2008-11, went out on a high note. In Virginia’s final home game of the season — and of Wilson’s career — he recorded his first career save and shut the door on Virginia’s 8-7 win over VCU.
The Cavaliers (30-21) have now won three games in a row and four of their last five, dating back to their 3-2 victory over the Rams (36-17) on April 30. Virginia closes out the regular season with a three-game series at Virginia Tech starting Thursday before starting the ACC Tournament next week in Durham, North Carolina.
“Guys have been pretty loose for a couple weeks, and I think we’ve been playing some good baseball as a result,” Virginia coach Brian O’Connor said. “We’re just trying to put them in the best position every day to try to win that game in front of us. That’s what we did tonight.”
Wilson entered in the ninth and retired three of the four batters he faced, putting an end to what had been a wild affair. VCU struck first with two runs in the first inning, and the Rams were leading 3-1 by the end of the third, having pushed Virginia starter Paul Kosanovich out of the game with after 2⅓ innings.
Virginia added one run in the fifth. It was just getting started. O’Connor’s team put four runs across in the sixth inning, thanks in part to a two-RBI double off the bat of Cameron Simmons, then scored again in the seventh.
VCU wasn’t ready to let the Charlottesville crowd go home happy. Left-hander Andrew Abbott pitched a perfect seventh inning but recorded just one out in the eighth, leaving right-hander Kyle Whitten to clean up the mess. It didn’t work. The Rams scored four runs in the frame, tying the game at 7 and setting the stage for Virginia’s histrionics.
In the bottom half of the frame, VCU right-hander Benjamin Dum needed three pitches to retire Simmons and first baseman Nate Eikhoff, and catcher Logan Michaels hit a grounder to shortstop that looked primed to end the inning.
The throw was off, though, and Michaels advanced to second. Cayman Richardson, who was 0-for-3 at the time, stepped into the batter’s box. O’Connor was hardly worried.
“He’s been as locked in the last couple of weeks offensively as he’s been in our uniform,” O’Connor said.
Richardson singled up the middle, and Michaels wheeled around third and stepped on home for the winning run, leaving it up to Wilson to seal the win.
Wilson is the last remaining player of Virginia’s 2015 NCAA Championship team, and his five-year career has been full of ups and downs. He thought back on it all as he prepared to enter the game, even flashing back to his early days at Virginia cheering on his brother.
“All just came full circle,” Wilson. “I almost felt at peace out there. Wasn't nervous.”
He didn’t look it. He stepped atop the mound, focused on Michaels’ glove and reared back. Twenty-two pitches later, Virginia was victorious.