June 12, 2010

By Shane Mettlen
Special to NCAA.com

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- What’s the matter with Danny Hultzen? Absolutely nothing. The Virginia lefty pitched eight innings, allowing only two runs and striking out nine, to lead the Cavaliers to a 3-2 victory against Oklahoma.
The question had been asked more than once leading up to Saturday’s first game of the NCAA Division I Baseball Charlottesville Super Regional, but the sophomore ace put any doubts to rest against the visiting Sooners, moving his team within one win of a return trip to the College World Series.
“Danny Hultzen gave us a tremendous start,” Virginia coach Brian O’Connor said. “Everybody out there was wondering when we were going to see the old Danny back, even though he won all those games. It was great to see he was in complete control of the game and we couldn’t have won the game without that kind of effort.”
Hultzen was one of the nation’s top pitchers the entire regular season with a 2.08 ERA and an 8-1 record. But his previous two starts had been some cause for concern among the Virginia faithful.
Against Miami in the ACC Tournament, he allowed five earned runs on six hits. Last week in the regional he allowed six earned on seven hits with a season-high three walks. Against Oklahoma though, he stayed strong throughout the evening, retiring the Sooners in order in both the seventh and the eighth.
“I felt good the past five starts,” said Hultzen, who threw 130 pitches. “But today I got ahead of hitters and threw a lot more strikes. I was ahead in the count a lot. I had no idea I threw 130 pitches. I thought it was like 100. That’s what it felt like.”
But Oklahoma starter Michael Rocha also had a great outing, which combined with some uncharacteristic fielding mistakes by the Cavaliers, kept the Sooners in the game.
The Cavs, now 51-12, led 1-0 heading into the fifth, thanks to a first-inning solo shot by Phil Gosselin. But The Sooners (47-16) tied the game in the fifth on an RBI single by Chris Ellison. Ellison’s ground ball at first appeared to be a routine out, but Virginia shortstop Tyler Cannon and third baseman Steven Proscia each expected the other to field it as it rolled safely into left field, allowing Max White to score.
Hultzen pitched his way out of a jam, but Virginia’s fielding woes continued in the sixth when White singled to left, where it looked like Gosselin would have time to make a throw to the plate. But Gosselin had trouble picking it up and Tyler Ogle easily scored from second to make it a 2-1 Sooners lead.
Virginia finally got its bats going again in the bottom of the inning and Dan Grovatt followed with a homer to right field that was just deep enough to put the Cavaliers back on top, 3-2.
“They got two balls out of the yard,” Golloway said. “That ended up clearly being the difference. We got a game tomorrow and our guys are aware that in these Super Regional formats you have a great opportunity the next day.”
Grovatt’s homer may have marked the end of a slump. He had driven in only one run in the previous three games, but came up with perhaps the Cavs’ two most important RBI to date.
“We are in a situation right now where we have to win tomorrow and I came to the park today intending to win,” Grovatt said. “What happened today and in the regular season isn’t going to help us win tomorrow, so I’ve put that behind me and I am going to keep that up tomorrow.”
Even though the Sooners find themselves needing to win the next two against a Virginia team that hasn’t lost back-to-back games this year, Golloway said his team is far from done. Game 2 is Sunday at 4 p.m.
“We fully expect to come back,” he said.