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The Cavaliers' pitcher put his rough 2012 ACC tourney outing behind him and led Virginia to a win over Georgia Tech on Thursday.
Courtesy of Virginia
UVa pitcher Scott Silverstein has twice had Tommy John surgery.
Friday, May 24, 2013
DURHAM, N.C. — In 2012, Virginia’s hopes for a repeat ACC baseball championship all but expired with Scott Silverstein on the mound.
This year, it was Silverstein who revived them.
Silverstein, a fifth-year senior who twice has undergone Tommy John elbow surgery, came within one out of a complete game Thursday as the Cavaliers defeated Georgia Tech 8-2 in pool play.
That was in stark contrast to their meeting in last year’s ACC Tournament, in which Silverstein didn’t survive the third inning and the Cavaliers fell 17-5, their most lopsided ACC Tournament loss in Brian O’Connor ’s 10 seasons as head coach.
“That was last year’s Scott Silverstein,” O’Connor said Thursday. “This was this year’s.”
In 2012, Silverstein, a 6-foot-6, 240-pounder, could barely hit 87 mph while rebuilding his arm strength after a combined 14 1⁄ 3 innings in his first three seasons at UVa.
“This year, we’ve had him at 92,” O’Connor said.
The Yellow Jackets (34-24) couldn’t have been surprised by the 2013 model. Silverstein (9-1, 3.07 earned-run average) gave up two hits over seven innings April 13, when the Cavaliers won 7-2 for their only victory in a three-game series in Atlanta.
“All you can do is turn the page and start over again,” Silverstein said of his rocky outing against the Yellow Jackets last year.
The most trouble Silverstein encountered Friday was in the bottom of the first, when he allowed hits to the first three Georgia Tech batters.
Kyle Wren, who opened the salvo with a triple, scored on Brandon Thomas’ single to the left-field corner. However, Thomas was thrown out at second, leaving the bases empty when Zane Evans singled off the wall.
Georgia Tech’s one-run inning ended when clean-up hitter Daniel Palka grounded into a double play, one of three turned by the Cavaliers.
“Brandon Thomas getting thrown out at second was a very pivotal play,” Georgia Tech coach Danny Hall said. “It turned around what could have been a big first inning against a guy that has pitched very well against us twice this year.”
The Cavaliers had been drubbed by Virginia Tech less than 24 hours earlier, 10-1, and learned Thursday morning that first baseman Jared King had a stomach virus.
In the absence of King, who had reached base three times against the Hokies and was the only Cavalier with two hits, third baseman Kenny Towns moved to first, shortstop Nick Howard moved to third and freshman John LaPrise started at shortstop.
LaPrise is basically the third shortstop in the absence of Branden Cogswell, also UVa’s regular lead-off hitter, who has been out for three weeks with a broken finger on his throwing hand.
“I’ll tell you, I’m not completely comfortable moving guys around that much,” said O’Connor, who revealed that Towns “does not practice at first base. He’s only played at first base in one other game this year.”
Towns not only started two of Virginia’s three double plays, but he ranged far into right field to snag a pop-up and followed a Howard home run in the fourth with a solo shot.
Center-fielder Brandon Downes launched a towering homer to start the sixth, with all three of UVa’s home runs coming by right-handed hitters against right-handed Georgia Tech starter Dusty Isaacs (4-7).
O’Connor had pitchers warming in the bullpen from the fourth inning on, but Silverstein kept his pitch count within reason and seemed to get stronger as the game went along.
“Early, he was [relying] on his fastball, and we got some hits off that,” Georgia Tech’s Evans said. “Then, he started throwing strikes with all three pitches, and that’s kind of tough.”
Silverstein said his hope was to save tear on the bullpen going into Saturday’s game with Florida State.
After Georgia Tech’s Mott Hyde singled with two outs in the ninth, O’Connor finally stepped from the dugout and made the call for freshman Josh Sborz, who fanned Thomas Smith to end the game.
“The plan in the ninth inning, as soon as they got a base-runner, Josh Sborz was going to be in the ballgame,” O’Connor said.
It was one of several successful moves for O’Connor, who had allowed his son, Dillon, to sit in the dugout for the first time Wednesday. Dillon was in full uniform again Thursday, and his dad didn’t have the heart to send him to the bleachers.
“Believe me, there was question running through my mind, too,” O’Connor said. “But, the kid’s 6 years old. He’s having the time of his life.”
Virginia 002 203 100 — 8 9 0
Georgia Tech 100 100 000 — 2 10 2
Silverstein, Sborz (9) and Irving; Isaacs, Wiseman (6), Pitts (7), Smelter (9) and Earnest. W—Silverstein 9-1. L—Isaacs 4-7. HR—UVa: Downes (9), Howard (3), Towns (6).
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