ODU Baseball Bounces Back with Decisive Victory over #8 Virginia

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ODU Athletics

Tommy Bell #11 makes contact with the incoming pitch.

Benjamin Draper, Sports Editor

The Old Dominion baseball team has been playing quite well so far this season as they continue to play at a high level. This past weekend, the Monarchs welcomed conference foe UTSA into town. ODU would win game one of the series against the Roadrunners handily 11-0 before falling in game two 8-7 in extra innings. Old Dominion would then fall in game three of the series 13-4 as the Roadrunners got the bats going. After the losses, ODU stood with a 22-8 (6-6 C-USA) record and turned their focus onto Tuesday evening as they had a long-awaited rematch with UVA. The Cavaliers of Virginia came into the matchup as the eighth-ranked team in the nation with a 26-6 (9-6 ACC) record. The last time ODU and Virginia met was in the postseason last year as the Cavaliers prevailed in extra innings at the NCAA Columbia Regional Final. They would hit a home run in the 10th inning to defeat ODU 4-3 and end the Monarchs’ remarkable 2021 run.

Kenny Levari #7 sees the pitch he likes and takes a swing at the ball. Taken from game three against UTSA (Elena Harris )

At the top of the first inning, the ODU offense got after the bats early as they scored two runs off a double down the left-field line which gave the Monarchs a 2-0 advantage. They could have added two more runs later in the inning, but the UVA second baseman, Justin Rubin, made a big diving catch to prevent more runs from coming in. The score would remain 2-0 until the bottom of the third inning when the Cavaliers would tie the game after a homerun struck over the right-field wall. The ODU offense retaliated in the top of the fourth. To get things started, senior catcher Brock Gagliardi hit a single up the middle. Then junior outfielder Thomas Wheeler made contact towards right field and got on base before Tommy Bell advanced the runners to second and third base with a single to the shortstop. After a fielding error by UVA, the Monarchs brought in two more runs to regain the lead 4-2.

Thomas Wheeler #27 runs to home plate and slides past the UVA catcher. (ODU Athletics)

Later in the inning, ODU tallied two more runs thanks to the pitching for the Cavaliers as a wild pitch and walk would result in a 6-2 advantage in Old Dominion’s favor. Gagliardi would go out swinging to end the top of the fourth, and in the bottom half of the inning, the ODU defense began to put the pressure on UVA as the Cavaliers went three-and-out. After that, the offense on both sides would not tally any more runs up until the top of the ninth when the Monarchs sealed the deal with some insurance runs. Senior third-baseman Matt Courtney got things started in the ninth with with a home run blast over the wall, extending ODU’s lead to 7-2. After the homerun, Gagliardi and sophomore outfielder Robbie Petracci reached base after a couple of walks, but Virginia would go back to the bullpen for a change. Wheeler then got on base off a fielder’s choice to the shortstop that advanced Gagliardi to third. Eventually, Wheeler got into scoring position after stealing second and freshman infielder Kyle Edwards brought the two runners in with a single down the right-field line. The game stood at 9-2 going into the bottom of the ninth inning as the Monarchs were three outs away from getting its revenge on UVA.

In the bottom half of the ninth, the Monarchs went to the bullpen and brought in sophomore left-handed pitcher Jacob Gomez to help seal the victory. Gomez earned two strikeouts to help secure the win for Old Dominion 9-2 over the Cavaliers. This victory was the first win over a top ten program for ODU since the 2016 season when they defeated tenth-ranked N.C. State 5-0. This was also the first non-conference loss for Virginia this season and their first home loss in 19 games.

Tommy Gertner #44 follows through with his pitching motion. (ODU Athletics)

The pitching for the Monarchs on Tuesday evening played a pivotal role in the victory as senior left-handed pitcher Tommy Gertner pitched well over 4 2/3 innings, limiting the Cavaliers to just four hits and two runs. Freshman right-handed pitcher Henry Hersum made his second appearance of the season and was brilliant in relief, throwing a hitless 1 1/3 innings. Redshirt junior, Brad Dobzanski, a transfer from Kentucky, threw two scoreless innings that ended off with Gomez ninth-inning performance.

After the game, Old Dominion head coach Chris Finwood talked about the importance of beating UVA and how this particular matchup meant more to him personally. “Any time ODU beats Virginia in any athletic event, it’s a big win. I don’t want to undersell that. I don’t know how many times we beat them in anything,” Finwood stated. “They beat us twice at the end of the year to knock us out of the tournament. You try to have the same mentality every game, but I was a little fired up for this one because the way the season ended last year.”

The Monarchs improved their record to 23-8(6-6 C-USA) and are back in action this weekend as they travel down to Alabama for another conference series with the University of Alabama-Birmingham. The series will be three games, with game one slated for Thursday, April 14 at 7p.m. The first pitch for game two will be on Friday, April 15 at 3p.m., and game three will be on Saturday, April 16 with a 12:30p.m. start time.