Minutes after a disappointing end to his college baseball career, Virginia pitcher Artie Lewicki held his head high as he talked to reporters.
"We did everything we could do to put ourselves in a position to win. I think, as a team I don't think we have any regrets," the senior right-hander said. "I think you could feel as good as you could feel about this. You know you went out there and you battled your tail off, and the chips just didn't fall in your favor."
Lewicki and the Cavaliers had just finished watching Vanderbilt celebrate the first national championship in program history. The Commodores held off UVa for a 3-2 win in Wednesday night's deciding Game 3 of the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha.
The loss ended a UVa season that included 53 wins, nine weeks atop the national rankings during the regular season, and the first CWS Finals appearance in program history.
"From start to finish, it was a roller coaster," junior second baseman Branden Cogswell said afterward. "We started off slow, and really picked it up come the end of the season. You won't get a better group of the guys in the country. These guys are my brothers. Without everybody coming together and clicking like we did come regional and super regional, we wouldn't be standing where we are today."
"This is the best season I've been a part of," said junior first baseman Mike Papi. "I love all these guys. They're the best group of guys I've played with; the most talented. And it's going to hurt to leave this program, and to leave these guys behind."
Papi and Cogswell are among several Cavaliers who likely played their final games in a UVa uniform Wednesday night. The team featured three seniors -- Lewicki and fellow pitchers Whit Mayberry and Austin Young -- plus six juniors who were drafted by major league teams earlier this month.
Closer Nick Howard was the first-round pick of the Cincinnati Reds, taken with the 19th overall pick. Outfielder Derek Fisher (No. 37 overall, Houston Astros) and Papi (No. 38, Cleveland Indians) were both taken before Round 2 as well. Outfielder Brandon Downes (Round 7, Kansas City Royals), Cogswell (Round 7, Oakland Athletics), Lewicki (Round 8, Detroit Tigers), Mayberry (Round 21, Tigers), and catcher Nate Irving (Round 34, Arizona Diamondbacks) were the other Wahoos drafted this month.
The Cavaliers' current junior class won 142 games in its first three seasons at UVa.
"Since freshman year, our class has played prominent roles on this team, and we continue to do that," said Papi. "And it's going to be tough to leave all these guys. And I know that we'll run into each other down the road. But it was great playing next to them, and great being successful next to them."
"Most of us are leaving, and it's in the hands of those underclassmen," said Cogswell. "They're going to have their work cut out, and they're going to do what Virginia baseball does. They're going to work hard in the offseason, and they're going to give 110 percent every day. That's the Virginia baseball way. And they're going to be fine, they're going to be successful, because we do things the right way."
Head coach Brian O'Connor has now led the Wahoos to four 50-win seasons -- all in the last five years -- and three CWS appearances in his 11 seasons in Charlottesville. Next year's team will return its three weekend starting pitchers -- rising juniors Nathan Kirby, Brandon Waddell, and Josh Sborz -- plus everyday players Kenny Towns and Daniel Pinero in the infield, and Joe McCarthy in the outfield.
And O'Connor is confident the Cavaliers will be back in Omaha again.
"When you talk to people across the country, and you talk about premier college baseball programs, the University of Virginia is in that conversation," he said. "I'm really, really proud of that, and the reason that we're in that conversation is because we play year-in and year-out with an extreme amount of consistency. And that's what it takes."
" And because we're consistent, and have a good program, we'll be back in this position again. It's just a matter of what year it is."