- - Friday, May 25, 2012

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Virginia’s relief pitching wasn’t able to bail out Scott Silverstein on Friday, a rare event that led to a blowout loss.

Georgia Tech’s 17-5 victory was called after seven innings because of the ACC’s 10-run rule, but the Cavaliers still have hope of reaching Sunday’s final.

If Clemson beats Georgia Tech in Saturday’s first game, both teams would finish 2-1. Virginia (1-1) can then beat Florida State in the late game to create a three-way tie, which would go to the Wahoos.

A Georgia Tech victory would render the second game meaningless.

Regardless of what’s on the line, U.Va. coach Brian O'Connor wants his team to focus on getting back to winning ways after a rough outing.

“That happens,” he said. “Our bullpen has done so many great things, there’s no reason to second-guess their ability to do the job.”

Middle relief emerged as one of Virginia’s strengths late in the season, and the Wahoos have needed it when Silverstein takes the mound.

The junior lefty hasn’t lasted five innings since March and was driven from Friday’s game in the third inning. That nightmare inning twice included getting two strikes on batters, only to watch them reach base.

Still, the ‘Hoos will need Silverstein to deliver next weekend, and he said he’ll be ready.

“I’ve struggled a bit as of late, but that’s not going to change anything moving forward in my eyes,” the junior said. “I’ve still got my confidence.”

When he left the game, Virginia still led 3-2, but reliever Nick Howard allowed a double, then the Jackets’ Mott Hyde hit a home run that smashed a windshield in the parking lot about 450 feet away.

The six-run inning was Virginia’s worst against a conference team since 2001, and it was followed up by a four-run fourth in which Howard walked two and gave up a double.

“He’s been in that situation a number of times, he just didn’t make the pitches he needed to,” O'Connor said. “He looked out of sorts, like he didn’t have it.”

The game was finished by Atlee High School grad Austin Young, a sophomore who had seen mostly midweek work this season. It was an undesirable spot to be in, but one the right-hander embraced.

“I knew I needed to come in and pitch zeroes,” he said.

Young kept things steady until the seventh inning, when Jake Davies hit a three-run home run to trigger the run rule.

Despite the early ending, the game still lasted 3 hours, 19 minutes because of a long delay after home plate umpire Bryant Woodall was hit by a pitch in the second inning, breaking his hand.

Georgia Tech’s Brandon Thomas led his team with four runs, while Zane Evans had a home run and six RBIs.

Given how hot the Jackets have been — and that they beat No. 1 FSU on Wednesday — it was easier for the ‘Hoos to write off the game as a tough day at the ballpark.

Lingering doubts remain about Silverstein’s ability to start a regional game, but U.Va.’s relievers have shown an ability to bounce back from bad outings.

“He’s been very consistent for us all year,” O'Connor said of Howard. “He wasn’t today. That happens; he’s not perfect.”

Right-handed starter Artie Lewicki gets the ball Saturday, with an opportunity to redeem the staff — and perhaps extend their stay in Greensboro.

Read more about the Cavs at TimesDispatch.com

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