With No. 1 Virginia one step from elimination on Thursday night in the College World Series, senior right-hander Tyler Wilson did what he has been doing for the Cavaliers all season. Win.
After a loss to South Carolina on Tuesday, the Cavaliers needed Wilson to deliver a masterful performance on the mound to remain in Omaha, and the team captain answered the call, leading Virginia to an 8-1 defeat of California.
The native of Midlothian, Va., was in control from the very beginning, and held the Golden Bears scoreless until the eighth inning as he matched his longest outing of his career at 7.2 innings. Wilson gave up just one run, scattering five hits and striking out five batters. He did not issue a walk in his second CWS appearance this week, and first-ever start in Omaha.
“Tyler Wilson was just spectacular tonight,” Virginia head coach Brian O’Connor said. “All year long, whenever we’ve needed a great outing, maybe after a difficult loss this year, he’s responded every time for his team. And he was the right guy to give the ball to tonight. That’s for sure. And he went out there and charged the mound and gave us everything that he had.”
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Wilson retired 11 consecutive batters between the second and sixth innings, limiting the Bears’ opportunities throughout the game.
“He kept us off balance to the point we were popping up a lot of balls which is pretty uncharacteristic of our team, and he was throwing two pitches for a strike,” California designated hitter Tony Renda said. “His slider was on tonight, and his fastball was getting on us and a guy like him you just have to take advantage of his mistakes and he didn’t make too many tonight and we weren’t able to find the holes to throw the ball low he was definitely on his stuff and made it tricky for us.”
“I knew it was going to be important coming in to establish my fastball, command of the fastball both in and out of the zone and to be able to pitch under the zone, try to get under the hands if necessary,” Wilson said. “And they put some really good swings on some fastballs throughout the entire game, and luckily they hit it right at our guys. But I think that was the key was being able to command the fastball.”
It was Wilson’s second appearance against Cal after he picked up the win in relief of starter Danny Hultzen in Sunday’s 4-1 victory against the Bears. He tossed 2.1 innings in the contest, allowing one run on three hits in that outing. While it familiarized California with Wilson, head coach Dave Esquer was not exactly happy to see him again. Cal hitters popped the ball up 14 times for outs against Wilson in tonight’s contest.
“He got us to get out front and hit the ball in the air,” Esquer said. “And that’s what we did.”
Wilson is now 3-0 with a 1.61 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 22.1 innings pitched in his four NCAA Tournament appearances this season, and is saving his best work for when it means the most.
“It’s the College World Series,” Wilson said. “How can you not pitch with adrenaline every time you step out there on that mound? The atmosphere is incomparable to anything else that you’ll ever play at this level. And I was ecstatic just to be out there to give our team a chance to build some momentum going into the rest of the tournament was really important.”
Despite being selected in the 35th round of 2010 Major League Baseball Draft by the Cincinnati Reds, Wilson returned to the Charlottesville campus to finish his degree in Biology, which he completed in May. After his baseball career, Wilson has aspirations of attending medical school to become an orthopedic surgeon.
A reliever for the first three years at Virginia, Wilson stepped into a starting role for the Cavaliers this season, compiling a stellar 10-0 record and 2.16 ERA, along with 124 strikeouts in 104.1 innings pitched. His draft stock deservedly rose this season as he was picked in the 10th round of the MLB Draft by the Baltimore Orioles earlier this month.
Wilson’s return to school helped Virginia return to the CWS for the second time in three years, and earned him recognition as one of 10 finalists for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, honoring the sport’s outstanding senior student-athlete. The winner will be announced Friday at TD Ameritrade Park.
“In close to 20 years of coaching, this guy is as good of a leader as I’ve ever seen,” O’Connor said. “Not only does he perform on the field and is he talented. But he’s just — he does things the right way … he’s just your perfect teammate. He cheers his teammates on, whether he’s in the game or not, and I just, I think the guy’s a warrior out there and tremendous leader, and he deserves any and all accolades that he can get, that’s for sure.”