COLUMBIA, S.C. — River Town lifted a fly ball to center field. Chris Newell camped under it, snagged the ball and the party was on.
Virginia players raced to the pitcher’s mound for a dogpile on Matt Wyatt. First came the infielders, next those from the dugout, who threw their hats and gloves high into the air.
The bullpen sprinted into the scrum alongside the outfielders, joining the wild scene. Finally, UVA’s assistant coaches jumped on top of the pile.
“One of the best moments of my life,” Wyatt said.
Virginia is headed to Omaha and the College World Series for the first time since 2015 after a 5-2 win over Dallas Baptist in the third game of the Columbia Super Regional. It’s the program’s fifth appearance in the CWS, all of which have come in the past 12 seasons.
Brian O’Connor’s squad defeated the Patriots behind a seventh-inning grand slam from freshman Kyle Teel. The Wahoos erased a 2-0 deficit, scoring the game’s final five runs and using another superb team pitching performance to stay alive.
The Cavaliers improved to 6-0 in NCAA tournament elimination games this spring.
“It takes everybody,” O’Connor said. “It takes every one of them, and if one of them decides not to show up on a day, you’re home.”
Teel’s heroics in the seventh extended UVA’s season. With the bases loaded and two outs, he unloaded on a 2-2 pitch and lifted it over the center-field wall.
The biggest hit of the freshman’s young career sends Virginia to college baseball’s grandest stage. The Cavaliers are one of eight teams left in national title contention, and they’ll open the College World Series against Tennessee.
Dallas Baptist struck first on a two-run home run to right field from Jackson Glenn. The star second basemen went deep off Nate Savino in the third inning, taking a 3-2 pitch over the left-field wall and into the glove of a young fan.
Glenn’s home run was his 21st of the season and second of the super regional. He also hit a two-run home run to open the scoring in Saturday’s game.
Virginia answered with a long ball from junior Nic Kent. The Charlottesville product launched a 3-2 pitch over the left-field wall for a solo home run to pull UVA to 2-1 in the fourth inning.
Both teams went to the bullpens early, with each starter being bounced by the end of the fourth inning. Wyatt continued his hot postseason, throwing 5 2/3 scoreless innings of relief. He struck out eight to match his career high, which he set in the Columbia Regional against South Carolina.
In the fifth, the Cavaliers threatened to tie the game. Newell led off with an infield single. He stole second and reached third on a flyout by Zack Gelof.
Ray Gaither, who pitched two scoreless innings of relief Saturday, battled against a pair of UVA hitters. The last time UVA played in the postseason, in 2017, it was Gaither who started for DBU and sent the Wahoos packing with an elimination-game win in the Fort Worth Regional.
Gaither escaped the fifth-inning jam Monday. He struck out Max Cotier in four pitches before a seven-pitch grind against Teel. Both were swinging strikeouts.
In the sixth, Gaither’s defense played exceptionally. Junior Blayne Jones made a diving stop at shortstop and threw out Kent at first base. Glenn made a sliding play at second base to rob Alex Tappen of a hit and end the sixth.
In the top of the seventh, UVA’s defense stole the show as Newell robbed Andres Sosa of a home run. Sosa hammered a ball to center field and admired it as it drifted toward the outfield. Newell leaped and grabbed the ball.
“Those are the plays, those are the pitches, those are the swings of the bat, those clutch moments where guys need to step up and emerge,” O’Connor said.
Teel missed an opportunity in the fifth inning, striking out with his team down a run and a runner on third base.
The freshman didn’t miss his chance in the seventh inning with the bases loaded and two outs. Teel was facing left-handed pitcher Peyton Sherlin, who came in one batter before Teel. Cotier had kept the inning alive with a single, setting the stage for the talented freshman.
On the first pitch, he swung through a breaking ball. He sent the 2-2 breaking ball over the center-field wall.
“It’s been a terrific two weeks here,” O’Connor said, “and we’re looking forward to heading back to Charlottesville today and packing our bags for that small town in the middle of America.”