What might have been
Notes: Illness stops stunning performance by Virginia’s Hultzen
OMAHA, Neb. – If not for an illness, who knows what Virginia’s Danny Hultzen would have accomplished Friday night on the mound at TD Ameritrade Park against South Carolina.
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What he did do in the first three innings, was strike out the first six batters to face him and eight batters in all. It set the tone for one of the more memorable CWS games in recent memory, a game which the Gamecocks won in 13 innings on back-to-back throwing errors by Cavaliers pitcher Cody Winiarski on bunts back to the mound.
It’s not known if anyone had accomplished Hultzen’s feat of six consecutive strikeouts to start a game before Friday. Only four pitchers since 2000 have struck out the first three hitters of a game, the last being UCLA’s Gerrit Cole in 2010 vs. TCU. The others were Florida’s Alan Horne in 2005, Texas’ J.P. Howell in 2003, and Stanford’s Justin Young in 2000.
“I thought Danny Hultzen in the first three innings showed why the Seattle Mariners took him in the second pick overall,” Virginia head coach Brian O’Connor said. “His stuff was absolutely dominating. But my plan coming into the game was for him to have a short stint. Danny was not feeling the best today. He was feeling under the weather today.”
Hultzen continued his dominance in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, finishing 2-0 with a 0.34 ERA in four starts while striking out 29 in 21.2 innings pitched. In Omaha, Hultzen had a perfect ERA in his two starts with 14 strikeouts in 9.1 innings.
Friday’s start matched the shortest of Hultzen’s career. He went three innings against LSU in the 2009 College World Series. Hultzen had pitched at least five innings in each of his past 35 starts dating back to his freshman year.
In what was likely his final appearance in a Virginia uniform, Hultzen gave as much as he could.
“He was gutting it out as much as he could. He was in pretty miserable shape after the first inning. And this kid's got a very, very bright future,” O’Connor said. “I was not going to put that at risk of him feeling under the weather on four days' rest and putting his career in jeopardy. It wasn't -- if we don't win a national championship, we don't win a national championship. That kid's done so much for our program for the last three years, and I owed that to him.”
South Carolina advances to the CWS Championship Finals and will take on SEC Eastern Division foe Florida (Game 1 is 8 p.m. ET Monday on ESPN). The Gamecocks broke an NCAA record with their 14th consecutive NCAA Tournament victory Friday night. It was also their ninth CWS win in a row, which is tied for the second-most.
Wilson Stays Classy
Virginia pitcher Tyler Wilson was named the baseball Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award winner. The announcement and trophy presentation were made Friday in Omaha before the Cavaliers faced South Carolina.
The award, chosen by a nationwide vote of Division I head coaches, national media and fans, is given annually to the most outstanding senior student-athlete in Division I baseball. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence – community, classroom, character and competition.
Wilson graduated from Virginia in May with a degree in biology. He was a member of the Dean’s List, the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and the Phi Eta Sigma honor society. After his baseball career is finished, Wilson plans to enter medical school, where he will study to become an orthopedic surgeon.
Wilson, a senior, finished his career in the Cavaliers’ top 10 list for career victories and strikeouts. His 2.24 ERA this season helped Virginia claim the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. He was also a 10th-round selection by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2011 MLB Draft.
Who said you can’t break a metal bat? Florida catcher Mike Zunino proved that theory wrong in Friday’s first game when he was sawed off on an inside pitch in the eighth inning.
The handle remained in his hands but the barrel went flying into the crowd. No one was hurt.
Zunino was using the same bat he had been swinging for the last 20 games or so.
He struck out to finish 1-for-5 Friday. The SEC player of the year is hitting just .167 in three College World Series games.
Noting the CWS
• Florida now has a school-record 53 wins this season. Over the past two seasons, Florida has 100 wins, the highest two-year stretch in school history. The Gators advance to the CWS Championship Finals for the second time in school history and the first since 2005. The Gators are the fourth program to appear in multiple CWS Championship Finals since the best-of-three finals began in 2003. The other schools are Texas (2004-05, 09); Oregon State (2006-07) and North Carolina (2006-07).
• In six career CWS appearances, South Carolina starter Michael Roth has a 0.88 ERA in 30.2 innings of work, ranking first among pitchers who have thrown 30-plus innings all-time at the CWS. He joins Ohio State’s Steve Arlin (0.96, 1965-66) as the only two players in MCWS history to have a career ERA under 1.00 while throwing at least 30 innings. Virginia's run in the top of the second was the first earned run allowed by Michael Roth since May 13, snapping a streak of 38.1 innings.
• The 11 pitchers used by both teams (Florida 6, Vanderbilt 5) is one shy of the CWS top-five single-game list. There have been only five games in CWS history where more pitchers were used.
• The eight triples in the 2011 CWS equals the highest triples total in 20 years (also 2006 and 2008). The last time there were more triples in an entire CWS was in 1991 when 11 were hit. The last time there were more triples than home runs in the CWS was in 1973 (nine triples, eight homers). It has happened 19 times all-time in the CWS. After 11 games, there have been eight triples and seven home runs.
• The South Carolina-Virginia game was the first extra-inning game in the CWS in 2011 and the 85th all-time at the CWS. It was the 17th game to go at least 13 innings. South Carolina has now played in the last three CWS extra-inning games.