NORFOLK — Old Dominion played a slew of games against quality opponents this season, so the Monarchs were more inspired than intimidated as they notched a signature win.
Solid pitching, timely hitting and uncharacteristically sloppy defense from top-ranked Virginia gave the Monarchs a convincing 8-1 win to conclude a soggy, well-worn Tuesday at Harbor Park.
"We played real well tonight, obviously," ODU coach Chris Finwood said. "We didn't make any errors and we took advantage of a couple mistakes they made. It was a tough night with the wind blowing and the rain. You've got to start with our pitching. We pitched real well, and we had a bunch of seniors go out there and do a good job for us."
ODU (27-18) defeated the No. 1-ranked team for the first time in program history and reversed an earlier 7-1 loss to the Cavaliers on April 1 in Charlottesville. ODU defeated Virginia for the first time since 2006 and had lost the last four to the Cavaliers.
The Monarchs notched just their third win against a top-20 opponent in the past six years. They edged No. 18 Rice 2-1 earlier this season in Conference USA play. Prior to that, their last win against a ranked team was an 8-6 decision at second-ranked North Carolina on Feb. 26, 2008.
Four ODU pitchers limited the Cavaliers (37-9) to four hits. The Cavaliers' 1-through-4 hitters were a combined 1-for-16. Virginia, the nation's statistical No. 2 fielding team, committed a season-high four errors, along with a couple of other costly plays.
"That was just a good, old-fashioned butt-kicking, quite frankly," Virginia coach Brian O'Connor said. "They beat us in every area of the game. They beat us on the mound. They threw more strikes and attacked hitters better than we did for nine innings. They handled the elements very, very well, and they had a lot more competitive at-bats and they earned it. They kicked our rears, quite frankly."
Connor Myers drove in three runs and Nick Walker and Josh Eldridge drove in a pair. The Monarchs broke open the game with a four-run eighth inning against reliever Connor Jones, a freshman from Chesapeake.
ODU starter Brett Harris, a redshirt senior from Chesapeake, scattered three hits over five innings, allowing just one run in the second inning. Dean Ali, Connor Overton and Brad Gero threw the final four innings, allowing just one hit.
Harris and the Monarchs got out of a jam with only minimal damage in the second inning. The Cavs' Joe McCarthy doubled to lead off the inning, and the first three batters reached, with McCarthy scoring on John La Prise's single.
A sacrifice bunt and a walk loaded the bases with one out, but No. 9 hitter Nate Irving hit a grounder to third base. Jordan Negrini stepped on the bag and fired to first for a double play.
ODU scored twice in the third to take the lead as a result of poor Virginia defense, with an assist to the stiff breeze blowing in from the Elizabeth River.
With two outs and Nick Walker on first, pitcher Artie Lewicki mishandled Ben Slaton's slow roller up the first-base line, allowing him to reach base. P.J. Higgins hit a high infield popup that got caught in the wind. La Prise, the second baseman, tracked the ball farther and farther toward the first-base line, but he couldn't squeeze it just inside fair territory, the ball bouncing toward the dugout.
Running on the hit with two outs, Walker and Slaton scored — all the way from first — to give the Monarchs a 2-1 lead.
Harris hit Brandon Downes to lead off the Virginia fifth inning, but he ended up stranded at third when Harris induced leadoff batter Mike Papi to ground out to end the inning.
The Monarchs pushed across two more runs with two outs in the sixth. Taylor Ostrich hit a one-out single, then scored on Eldridge's triple down the right field line on which McCarthy took a poor pursuit angle, the ball scooting past him to the wall. Myers then beat out a slow bouncer toward shortstop, allowing Eldridge to score.
U.Va. threatened in the seventh, as Nick Howard drew a leadoff walk. He advanced to third on a fielder's choice and passed ball, but was thrown out at the plate on a ground ball to Negrini at third.
A walk to Kenny Towns put runners on first and second, but Ali got Nate Irving to hit into a fielder's choice to end the inning.
The Monarchs gobbled up a pair of Virginia line drives in the eighth inning – Myers a sinking shot by Papi in center field, and Negrini a shot directly at him from Derek Fisher.
Myers and Walker concluded the scoring with two-run doubles in the eighth inning.
"Obviously, they're the No. 1-ranked team in the country," Finwood said, "so you win that game, it means a lot, especially for our fans. We played such a tough schedule all year. We're ready to play in these games. Like I've said, when we play well, we have a chance to beat most teams. We just have to play well, and tonight we did."
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