No team’s road to Omaha was as bumpy as Virginia’s.
Freshman Kyle Teel hit a grand slam in the seventh inning for Virginia’s first lead and the Cavaliers clinched their fifth trip to the College World Series with a 5-2 victory over Dallas Baptist on Monday.
Virginia (35-25) won the Columbia Super Regional Monday to reach the College World Series for the first time since winning the national championship in 2015.
“I’ll tell you what this team has accomplished and the opportunity they have now is just incredibly special,” Virginia coach Brian O’Connor said. “This is our fifth trip, and I’ve got to tell you, they’re all joyous. They’re all wonderful. They’re all unique in my own way. But this one, I tell you, the route that this team has taken speaks to the character and the resiliency and the type of young men we have in this program.”
Virginia will play No. 3 national seed Tennessee (50-17) in its first game in the CWS, which starts Saturday in Omaha, Nebraska.
No. 10 Notre Dame (34-12) was playing at No. 7 Mississippi State (41-16) on Monday night for the eighth, and final, CWS spot. The winner of that super regional will be matched against No. 2 Texas (47-15).
The other CWS openers: NC State (35-18) vs. Stanford (38-15) and Arizona (45-22) vs. Vanderbilt (45-15).
Virginia played from behind until the seventh inning Monday. That’s when Teel hit a two-out grand slam to center field off Patriots closer Peyton Sherlin.
“When I hit the ball, I didn’t think it was out. I thought I hit a deep flyout,” Teel said. “So very grateful for it to go over the fence.”
Sherlin had fooled Teel with a breaking pitch earlier in the at-bat, with Teel going almost to his knees as he swung. He didn’t fool him when he threw the same pitch on 2-2 count. Teel’s helmet nearly flew off as he turned on the ball.
“Kyle Teel is fearless,” O’Connor said, “and to win games at this elite level of baseball, you not only have to have skill, you can’t be afraid. You will crumble at times when pressure’s on if you’re afraid. He’s not afraid. He’s got 100 percent belief in his ability.”
Matt Wyatt (4-1) pitched 5 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, striking out eight while allowing just two hits. Starter Nate Savino allowed a two-run homer by Jackson Glenn in the third as DBU took a 2-0 lead.
Nic Kent cut Virginia’s deficit to 2-1 with a solo homer in the fourth. In the top of the seventh, Virginia centerfielder Chris Newell leapt at the wall to deny Andres Sosa’s long ball.
Ray Gaither (3-3) took the loss for Dallas Baptist (41-18), which advanced farther than any other team in program history. Starter Luke Eldred allowed one run in 3 2/3 innings. Glenn hit his 21st home run of the season, ranking third for a single season in DBU’s Division I era.
Virginia, like fellow ACC member and CWS entry North Carolina State, is playing its best baseball after struggling early. The Cavs were 11-14 and 4-12 in ACC play on April 1. They are 24-11 since and have won 13 of their last 17.
They went into the NCAA Tournament as a No. 3 regional seed in Columbia, South Carolina. They lost to South Carolina in their opener before winning four straight, including two in a row over Old Dominion for the regional title.
Virginia stayed in Columbia for the super regional against Dallas Baptist and lost the first game. The Cavs then won two straight to advance to the CWS.
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