CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va (Release via ODU Athletics) – Yes, beating Virginia on its home field was delicious for the Old Dominion baseball team. And the Monarchs did that in convincing fashion Tuesday night, rolling past the Cavaliers, 9-2, at Disharoon Park.
The last time ODU and Virginia baseball met, Devin Ortiz crushed a fastball over the left field stands in the bottom of the 10th inning, and the Cavaliers ended the Monarchs’ storybook season, 4-3, in the NCAA Columbia Regional Final.
But far more important than getting payback was beating one of the nation’s best teams. Virginia (26-7) is ranked eighth nationally in the RPI and as high as fifth in the polls by Collegiate Baseball.
This was the kind of victory that will resonate with the NCAA Tournament committee if the Monarchs are on the bubble.
It was the first victory over a top-10 program for ODU (23-8) since a 5-0 win over No. 10 N.C. State on Feb. 19, 2016. Virginia had not lost a conference game this season and had won 19 of 20 previous home games.
ODU’s offense was productive, as usual, in spite of leaving 10 runners on base. First baseman Matt Coutney had two hits and drove in four runs, including a solo home run in the top of the ninth, and catcher Brock Gagliardi also had two hits.
Coutney is 15-for-26 (.577) with 12 RBIs and five home runs in the last seven games.
But it was ODU’s oft-maligned pitching staff that excelled.
Tommy Gertner, who has struggled much of the season, pitched well over 4 2/3 innings, limiting U.Va. to four hits and just two runs.
Freshman Henry Hersum, making just his second appearance of the season, was brilliant in relief, throwing a hitless 1 1/3 innings.
Brad Dobzanski, a redshirt junior transfer from Kentucky, then threw two scoreless winnings.
Hard-throwing relief pitcher Jacob Gomez closed out the game, striking out two batters and forcing another to fly out.
ODU coach Chris Finwood, who is close friends with U.Va. coach Brian O’Connor, said it was a good victory, but just one game among 55 the Monarchs will play this season.
“But any time ODU beats U.Va. in any athletic event, it’s a big win,” he said. “I don’t want to undersell that. I don’t know how many times we beat them in anything. I think that’s very important.
“When you beat the fifth team in the country on the road, it’s a big win.”
Finwood was especially pleased with how Gertner performed. “He’s struggled, and he really threw the ball well,” Finwood said. “This is the top-scoring team in the nation, so to hold them to two runs was really an accomplishment.”
But it wasn’t all pitching. ODU’s fielders made some sparkling catches, including a snag by centerfielder Thomas Wheeler of a long fly ball hit by U.Va.’s Kyle Teel.
“That was a great play,” Finwood said. “We knew that’s a disciplined team and that they weren’t going to chase balls out of the zone. We made them hit the ball and we made some really great plays on defense.
“And we didn’t walk many players. They walked us nine times and I’m sure they’re saying that’s what lost the game.”
Coutney, a senior from Edmonton, Alberta, said the loss to U.Va. last season stuck with him for months.
“They beat us twice at the end of the year to knock us out of the tournament,” he said. “You try to have every game the same mentality, but I was a little fired up for this one because the way the season ended last year.
“But the important thing about this game is momentum. There are so many ups and downs and your confidence can be pretty fragile.
“This win really helps our confidence.”
U.Va. started closer Will Geerdes, a graduate transfer from Columbia University, and the Monarchs jumped on him in the first inning.
ODU scored twice and would have scored at least two more had it not been for a diving catch by second baseman Justin Rubin on a Wheeler drive to right field.
With two outs and runners on second and third, Coutney shortened up on the bat with two strikes and drove a line shot to left field that bounced on the foul line driving in Levari and Bell.
U.Va. tied it up in the bottom of the third. Rubin began things with a line drive single up the middle and then stole second. Teel then drove a high drive into the right field bullpen to tie it up.
ODU retook the lead in the top of the fourth. Gagliardi, Wheeler and Bell singled, and with two outs, Levari drove a hard grounder that Rubin could not reel in. Gagliardi and Wheeler scored, making it 4-2.
Jay Woolfolk, a true freshman, then came on in relief and walked three batters in a row. Bell scored on a wild pitch and then Levari scored after Coutney was walked to make it 6-2.
Hard-throwing right hander Dylan Bowers, a graduate transfer from Northern Colorado, then came in and struck out Gagliardi to end the inning.
ODU still led 6-2 entering the ninth inning and added three insurance runs. Coutney blasted his 12th home run of the season over the right field fence, and then freshman second baseman Kyle Edwards drilled a two-run single to right field to score two more.
Gertner said the Monarchs entered this game with a relaxed attitude.
“We knew what we had to do to win,” he said. “We just played loose, we played ODU baseball the way we usually play.
“I had more trust in myself tonight. I didn’t have any strikeouts. I just gave my teammates opportunities to make plays and they did.”
Asked if he was thinking of last year’s year-ending defeat, he shook his head.
“It was on my mind for a long time, but there’s a time when you need to get over things and look forward,” he said.
“This was a good win. It’s one of the best teams we’ve played. It’s a big step in the right direction.”