It's not clear if Scott Silverstein's pun was intended when talking about how having a strong bullpen behind him impacts his approach on the mound.
"It's like a relief, sort of," Silverstein, a fifth-year senior lefty for Virginia, said with a laugh. "I know that if I get in trouble, they're there to pick me up. Obviously I want to be in there for all nine innings, but I have no problem handing the ball over to anybody in our pen."
The strength of that Virginia bullpen was on display this past weekend at the NCAA's Charlottesville Regional. Four relievers combined to throw 11 shutout innings in the Cavaliers' three wins, led by regional Most Outstanding Player Kyle Crockett.
The junior lefty struck out seven in four scoreless innings in two appearances, earning two-inning saves against Army on Friday and Elon on Saturday. After Saturday's win, coach Brian O'Connor called Crockett the best closer he's had at Virginia.
Crockett ended both saves with strikeouts, bringing the fans at Davenport Field to their feet. And his teammates admit to getting caught up in the moment when he takes the mound.
"It's truly unbelievable," said sophomore Nick Howard. "You get that feeling that the game's over when he comes into the game. He's just that dominant right now, and it's awesome to have that in our repertoire."
"He's unbelievable," said Silverstein, who earned the win against Elon last Saturday with six shutout innings. "I know the crowd gets jacked up when he comes in, and so do all of we. Because we know that he's a competitor, and he's really good at what he does."
Crockett -- who is 4-1, with a 1.68 ERA and 12 saves on the season -- says he "definitely" enjoys pitching in that high-stakes closer role.
"We've got a lot of good guys in the bullpen, though," he said. "So I know I've got good teammates to back me up, and our defense has been playing great the last few games. It's just great to be going out there with confidence when I'm pitching."
A pair of freshmen -- righty Josh Sborz and left-hander David Rosenberger -- also made strong contributions out of the bullpen last weekend. Sborz pitched a hitless inning Saturday night in relief of Silverstein before giving way to Crockett, then finished off the regional with two strikeouts in an inning of work on Sunday night.
Rosenberger earned the win on Sunday with five innings of two-hit ball in relief of starter Whit Mayberry. He's 3-0 with a 1.19 ERA in 19 appearances this season.
Sborz (3-0, 1.84 ERA) leads the Virginia pitching staff with 29 appearances on the season, one more than Crockett and junior right-hander Austin Young (5-0, 2.25 ERA).
"I think we have one of the best bullpens in the nation," said Crockett. "And it's easy to say that we're a good bullpen, just because everybody's backing up on defense and everything like that. We're not going to go out there and strike a bunch of guys out. We just put balls in play and our defense works for us."
"Our bullpen has been very, very consistent all year long," said O'Connor. "And as a starter this year, that's got to feel pretty good, that you know that you can hand the ball over to a talented bullpen that can get the job done for you."
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