As Cayman Richardson settled in at first base, having given Virginia a seven-run lead over Louisville with a single in the bottom of the second inning Saturday, a man wearing an orange T-shirt rose from his Disharoon Park seat.
“We’re going to Omaha!” the man said, raising his arms, grinning.
The Cavaliers have a long way until they can start thinking about the College World Series, which is held annually in Omaha, Nebraska. But Saturday’s 12-6 win over the No. 6 Cardinals — which clinched the Wahoos’ first series victory in more than a month — proved encouraging for a Cavaliers team battling through an uneven season.
“A signature series win like this is what our players needed, what our team needed,” Coach Brian O’Connor said.
O’Connor called back to April 26-28, when his team won the series opener at North Carolina then dropped the next two games, 5-4.
“I felt like we were right there and certainly could have won the [North Carolina] series,” O’Connor said. “For this team that has been up and down all year, for us to get this going into the last four regular season games is really, really important. I think we still have a chance to accomplish what our goals are.”
After an emotional Senior Day ceremony Saturday, Virginia (29-21, 12-15 ACC) scored seven runs in the first inning and four more in the second, putting away Louisville (40-12, 19-8) long before the gray sky overhead began leaking rain.
With right-hander Griff McGarry dealing with what O’Connor referred to as “mild setback,” right-hander Chesdin Harrington, a senior, received the nod for the rubber match start. O’Connor said McGarry is throwing and could pitch Tuesday against VCU.
Harrington didn’t disappoint, allowing four runs over a career-high six innings.
“He really had it going and really pitched the game of his career,” O’Connor said.
Rain had soaked the lower bowl by the time Harrington handed O’Connor the ball, forcing fans to congregate under the awning. Standing, they clapped and cheered as Harrington retreated to the dugout.
“That meant a lot to me,” Harrington said.
It helped that Virginia’s hitters gave him a big cushion.
Louisville put one run across in the top of the first, but the Cavaliers — after scoring 17 runs across Friday’s doubleheader — took advantage of a throwing error in the first inning with a steady stream of singles and put the Cardinals in a hole they wouldn’t get out of.
Tanner Morris, Nic Kent, Logan Michaels and Richardson registered two RBI each for Virginia, which turned to left-hander Andrew Abbott in the ninth inning.
The Cavaliers’ former closer, who threw 32 pitches in the nightcap of Saturday’s doubleheader, erased Louisville in 14 pitches to seal the victory. Abbott pumped his fist as Kent, the second baseman, fielded a grounder and fired to first baseman Nate Eikhoff for the game’s final out.
“It just tells us that we have the talent. When we put the pieces together we can win those kind of ball games,” Abbott said. “This is a big step for us.”