UVa breaks away from Cal for win
Golden Bears go 1 for 6 with runners in scoring position
OMAHA, Neb. — Virginia ace Danny Hultzen and Tyler Wilson did their part from the start.
It took the Cavaliers’ offense a lot longer to get going. Finally, they scratched out enough for a 4-1 College World Series victory against California on Sunday.
John Hicks’ single in the seventh inning broke a scoreless tie in what until then had been the longest 0-0 game at the CWS since 1987.
“We had confidence the whole time,” Hicks said. “Their pitchers did an unbelievable job of keeping them in the game until we strung a few hits together. We had to get a ball in the air or in the middle of the field and then we’d score a run, but we didn’t come up with the clutch hit. We knew we’d get on the board.”
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Steve Proscia followed Hicks’ hit with a sacrifice fly, and the Cavaliers added two more runs in the eighth.
The No. 1 seed Cavaliers (55-10) move to a Bracket 2 winners’ game on Tuesday night. They’ll play the winner of Sunday night’s Texas A&M-South Carolina game.
Cal (37-22) meets the loser on Tuesday.
Before Hicks’ run-scoring single, the Cavaliers had gone 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position.
“We started to wonder there,” Virginia coach Brian O’Connor said. “We had a lot of missed opportunities we didn’t capitalize on. That speaks to the quality of the arms California has, the ability to pitch out of jams. I knew if we hung in there and continued to battle, and our pitching held us in there, we’d have a chance to win it late.”
Hultzen and Wilson were within an out of combining for the first CWS shutout in five years before Chad Bunting hit a run-scoring single over shortstop with two outs in the ninth.
Hultzen, the No. 2 overall draft pick by the Seattle Mariners, allowed three hits over 6.1 innings. He walked three and struck out six. He effectively mixed his 94-mph fastball with his slider and changeup.
“Danny Hultzen, as advertised, the second pick of the draft. He’s tough. A little bend but no break, and I have to give him a lot of credit for making the big out when he had to,” Cal coach David Esquer said.
Wilson (9-0) got the win after working 2.1 innings and Branden Kline recorded the last out for his 18th save.
“We’ve been a team that has grinded it out offensively,” O’Connor said. “A pitcher can get very frustrated with our offensive approach. No one gives in.”
Logan Scott (1-2) took the loss in relief of Erik Johnson, who struggled for a third consecutive start.
The Cavaliers broke through after No. 9 hitter Keith Werman singled leading off the seventh and Chris Taylor walked, chasing Scott and bringing on closer Matt Flemer.
After John Barr moved the runners over with a sacrifice, Hicks sent a liner into center to score Werman before Proscia’s sacrifice fly to right.
Virginia added to the lead in the eighth on Jared King’s RBI triple and Werman’s run-scoring single.
Cal finished sixth in the Pac-10 and was a surprise CWS qualifier after the school administration threatened to drop the program next year. A $9 million fundraising effort saved the program.
The Bears extended their at-bats against Hultzen, with six of their first 15 batters requiring six or more pitches. Hultzen’s pitch count was deep into the 60s by the third inning, and he was out of the game in the seventh after his 113th pitch.
“They had some competitive hitters up there,” Hultzen said. “They refused to take swings and misses. They did a good job of battling with two strikes. When that happens, you have to let them do that. You can’t try to strike them out because they’re not going to.”
Wilson, used primarily as a starter this season, kept the shutout going until the ninth.
Johnson, tagged for 12 earned runs in his previous 11.1 innings in the tournament, struggled with his command. The Chicago White Sox’s second-round pick left after issuing his fourth and fifth walks to start the fourth inning.
“I know you don’t always hit the ground running when you get in the big tournaments and just the tournament atmosphere, and you hope you can stay in the tournament long enough to get comfortable,” Esquer said. “Hopefully we can do that.”