OMAHA, Neb. – You won’t hear any complaints from Virginia about TD Ameritrade Park. It seems this place was built for the Cavaliers, and they’re happy to get to hang around a few more days.
Josh Sborz and two relievers turned in another dominating pitching performance Saturday, limiting Mississippi to six singles in a 4-1 victory that put Virginia in the College World Series finals.
The Cavaliers have allowed two earned runs in 33 innings in winning their three CWS games for an 0.55 ERA. The CWS record for lowest ERA in a series, in a minimum four games, is 0.60 by California in 1957.
“I thought we would be pretty darn good in Omaha on the mound. I really did,” coach Brian O’Connor said. “Obviously, the spacious ballpark and our ability to defend have a lot to do with it. What we’ve done all year is throw strikes. Our walk numbers are ridiculously low. And we’ve got really good arms.”
Virginia (52-14), in the CWS for the third time, will go to the championship round against Vanderbilt or Texas looking for its first national championship in baseball.
The Rebels (48-21) lost to Virginia for a second time in the CWS, ending their first trip to Omaha since 1972.
“They make it very hard on you,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “Man, they’re good. They can really pitch, hit and play defense – an outstanding ballclub that deserved to win.”
Virginia, which had been batting .091 in the CWS with runners in scoring position, took a 3-1 lead in the fourth after loading the bases against Chris Ellis (10-3). Robbie Coman drove Ellis’ 1-0 pitch into right field for two runs, and another came home on Branden Cogswell’s squeeze bunt.
Joe McCarthy, who came to bat in the seventh 1 for 12 in the CWS, delivered an insurance run with a double deep into right center.
Sborz (6-4) threw 12 pitches on Friday before a heavy thunderstorm forced suspension of the game in the second inning. He was on the mound when play resumed and worked through the fifth inning.
Artie Lewicki took over to start the sixth, and closer Nick Howard worked the ninth for his 20th save.
The Cavaliers stayed close after falling behind 1-0 thanks to some gritty work by Sborz in the third. Ole Miss loaded the bases on a single and two walks, but the threat ended when Sborz got Will Allen to line out to third.
“When he got out of those jams and started rolling a little bit, he pitched with a little more confidence, and when you’re doing that with that kind of stuff, it’s tough to hit,” Ole Miss’ Will Allen said.
Sborz said a mound visit from pitching coach Karl Kuhn helped him refocus.
“What he told me was to just let them hit (my) stuff, basically, and just stop trying to miss bats,” Sborz said. “Right after that it kind of fell into place.”
Coman, who went 2 for 4, was in the lineup for the first time at the CWS, taking over for Nate Irving at catcher.
Irving had come to Omaha 3 for his last 34 and hitless in 18 at-bats, but he had come through offensively in Virginia’s first two games. But Coman has been catching Sborz all season, and O’Connor stuck to that plan Saturday. Coman went 2 for 4 with the go-ahead hit an inning after he struck out looking with runners on the corner.
“Being the Saturday catcher really with Josh all year, I’m always ready to play each game,” Coman said. “It is Omaha, but once you get out there and you’re in the moment, it calms you down a little bit and you back to play the game the way you’ve always played it.”