Virginia Beats Stephen Strasburg In Irvine Regional Opener
(With the end of the year fast approaching, we’re counting down some of the top moments from the 2009 college baseball season. We’ll have one a day through New Year’s Eve.)
The Virginia vs. San Diego State ace Stephen Strasburg in the Irvine Regional opener wasn’t exactly David vs. Goliath, but the Cavalier’s 5-1 college baseball’s 2009 version of the shot heard ’round the world.
Strasburg was nothing less than stellar all season in leading the Aztecs to their first NCAA Tournament in 18 years. The righthander was unbeaten at 13-0 and he was the national ERA and strikeout leader. Virginia was a former also ran in the ACC, but they were in their sixth straight NCAA Tournament since Brian O’Connor had taken over as head coach.
Even if Virginia could somehow beat Strasburg the Irvine Regional field was filled with other landmines. The host Anteaters were ranked #1 in the nation and the defending national champion Fresno State Bulldogs were seeded fourth.
Virginia struck first when the second batter of the game, Phil Gosselin, connected on a solo home run. Afterward O’Conner said the home run sent Strasburg and the Aztecs the message that the Cavs “weren’t going to back down”. UVA was aggressive yet patient, making Strasburg throw 50 pitches while giving-up single runs in each of the first two innings.
Strasburg gave-up two runs on eight hits in his seven innings that afternoon. He struckout 15 with no walks (but two wild pitches) in what turned out to be his only loss of the season in the last collegiate start of his All-American career. SDSU reliever Andrew Leary gave up three runs, including a solo home run to Steven Proscia, in two innings of work.
Virginia starting pitcher Robert Morey couldn’t match Strasburg’s 15 strikeouts (Morey had 9 in six innings), but he put-up a number that was even more important: zero runs. “It’s hard to lose when you don’t
give-up any runs,” O’Connor later said. “That’s what it came down to.”
That’s what Virginia’s Regional win and its entire NCAA Tournament came down to. The Cavs’ pitching staff surrendered just two runs in three games en-route to winning the Irvine Regional. (They outscored the Anteaters by a combined 9-1 in their two wins.) After a 4-3 12-inning loss to Ole Miss in game one of their Super Regional Virginia battled back to win 4-3 and 5-1 to earn the program’s first College World Series berth.
(Press “Play” above to listen to O’Connor talk about the Regional win in a podcast interview with Collegebaseball360.com Editor Sean Stires.)
Virginia’s 2.65 team ERA in nine games was second in the nation during the 2009 NCAA Tournament. Vanderbilt had the lowest ERA at 2.45, but the Commodores played just five games. Strasburg’s talent was good enough to make him the overall number one pick in the 2009 MLB draft, but Virginia’s team pitching carried them to Omaha.
(Press play to listen to another podcast interview with O’Connor. This one was recorded as the Hoos were headed to the CWS.)
CLICK HERE to see more 2009 NCAA Tournament and College World Series statistics.
Virginia is ranked third (behind Texas and LSU) in the Collegiate Baseball 2010 preseason rankings.
Other Top Moments Of 2009