Consistent Cavaliers Still in Hunt for ACC Crown

Virginia catcher Nate Irving knows that theoretically, his chosen sport is a game that sets you up to fail.

"Baseball is a game where you're going to fail seven out of 10 times, and be a hall of famer. So the challenge is to be consistent," the sophomore said after Thursday night's 10-4 Virginia win to open a three-game series at North Carolina. "And if you can be consistent, good things will happen."

"So I mean, It's what we strive for. It's what we work towards."

That consistency has been key to the Cavaliers' 44-8 season this spring. They've won at least five in a row five times this season -- including a 14-game winning streak to open the year, and their current six-game streak.

On the flip side, Virginia has dropped back-to-back games only twice, and hasn't lost three in a row all year.

"Great college baseball teams, they are consistent," coach Brian O'Connor said. "Everybody has lapses at times. But that's what has made this team really special. They haven't taken a night off. And that's how you become one of the top teams in the country, you go about your business the same way."

"The coaches always tell us to come to the field ready to play. All 27 outs, as hard as we can," said sophomore Mike Papi, who raised his batting average to .415 with three more hits on Thursday. "And just to keep a high energy level in practice, and that translates into the games. So just having a high energy and coming in and playing all 27 outs."

With 10 runs on 17 hits on Thursday, Virginia's offense continued its torrid performance since returning from a 10-day layoff for exams last Friday. The Cavaliers have scored 63 runs on 81 hits in those five games, including double-digit runs in the last four.

All nine players in the lineup had at least one hit on Thursday, while six guys had at least two.

"One through nine, our lineup is lethal," Papi said. "If one guy gets out, we have guys right behind them to pick each other up."

"An offense that never stops going, that stays consistent with their approach, is one of the most, the hardest to pitch against. The hardest to defend," said Irving, who had three of the Cavaliers' hits on Thursday. "Because you really don't know what you can do to get them off-balance and off-rhythm."

"I don't know, this hitting thing sometimes can be just contagious," said O'Connor. "A couple of guys do it, and all of a sudden a bunch of guys string some hits together. And certainly we're going to need that kind of effort again, moving forward in this series."

Thursday's win also kept Virginia (21-7 in the ACC) in the hunt for the conference's regular season title. North Carolina fell to 20-6 in the conference with the loss. But since conference winning percentage is the league's first tie-breaker, the Cavaliers still need to win their final two games in Chapel Hill to clinch that league title.

"This is the team you're going to have to beat to win championships," Papi said. "And we're going to come out here, give it our best, and just see what happens."

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