No team’s road to Omaha was as bumpy as Virginia’s.
The Cavaliers staved off elimination for the sixth time in eight NCAA Tournament games, beating Dallas Baptist 5-2 on Monday in Game 3 of their super regional to advance to the College World Series.
“I’ll tell you what this team has accomplished and the opportunity they have now is just incredibly special,” Virginia coach Brian O’Connor said. “This is our fifth trip, and I’ve got to tell you, they’re all joyous. They’re all wonderful. They’re all unique in my own way. But this one, I tell you, the route that this team has taken speaks to the character and the resiliency and the type of young men we have in this program.”
Virginia (35-25) will play No. 3 national seed Tennessee (50-17) in its first game in the CWS, which starts Saturday in Omaha, Nebraska.
No. 10 Notre Dame (34-12) was playing at No. 7 Mississippi State (41-16) on Monday night for the eighth, and final, CWS spot. The winner of that super regional will be matched against No. 2 Texas (47-15).
The other CWS openers: NC State (35-18) vs. Stanford (38-15) and Arizona (45-22) vs. Vanderbilt (45-15).
Virginia played from behind until the seventh inning Monday. That’s when freshman Kyle Teel hit a two-out grand slam to center field off Patriots closer Peyton Sherlin.
“When I hit the ball, I didn’t think it was out. I thought I hit a deep flyout,” Teel said. “So very grateful for it to go over the fence.”
Sherlin had fooled Teel with a breaking pitch earlier in the at-bat, with Teel going almost to his knees as he swung. He didn’t fool him when he threw the same pitch on 2-2 count. Teel’s helmet nearly flew off as he turned on the ball.
“Kyle Teel is fearless,” O’Connor said, “and to win games at this elite level of baseball, you not only have to have skill, you can’t be afraid. You will crumble at times when pressure’s on if you’re afraid. He’s not afraid. He’s got 100 percent belief in his ability.”
Virginia, like fellow ACC member and CWS entry North Carolina State, is playing its best baseball after struggling early. The Cavs were 11-14 and 4-12 in ACC play on April 1. They are 24-11 since and have won 13 of their last 17.
They went into the NCAA Tournament as a No. 3 regional seed in Columbia, South Carolina. They lost to South Carolina in their opener before winning four straight, including two in a row over Old Dominion for the regional title.
Virginia stayed in Columbia for the super regional against Dallas Baptist and lost the first game. The Cavs then won two straight to advance to the CWS for the first time since they won the national championship in 2015.
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