The ACC Player of the Year wasted little time performing like it during his team’s pool-play opener at the league’s tournament in Durham.
Virginia catcher Kyle Teel had three hits — including a homer and a double — and drove in two runs and scored three to spark the second-seeded Cavaliers to a 15-1 mercy-rule rout of No. 11-seed Georgia Tech on Wednesday in Pool B action at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
“Kyle Teel was locked in all day from the first at bat he had,” Hoos skipper Brian O’Connor said afterward.
It was UVa’s 10th-consecutive victory, and fourth straight against the Yellow Jackets (30-27), who the Cavaliers (45-11) swept this past weekend in Atlanta to close the regular season.
The Hoos can advance to the ACC semifinals with a win against North Carolina on Thursday afternoon. The Tar Heels beat Georgia Tech on Tuesday to set up Thursday’s win-and-advance showdown.
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But on Wednesday, Teel ensured UVa — which as the highest-seeded squad in Pool B, needed only a win against UNC to move on — would enter the matchup on a double-digit winning streak.
Teel, named ACC Player of the Year on Monday, doubled to left in the second inning for the game’s first hit and came across the plate with the contest’s first run when he scored a batter later on a throwing error.
He extended UVa’s edge to 2-0 in the fourth when he belted a lead-off long ball over the fence to just-of-left center for his 12th homer of the campaign.
“That was as impressive of a home run as I’ve seen in this ballpark,” O’Connor said. “You can pull home runs, but to hit a ball to center on a line like that is incredibly impressive.”
O’Connor said the round-tripper inspired the Cavaliers.
Teel, the ACC’s batting champion this spring, added a single in the fifth to reach 94 hits for the season and tie for second all-time in UVa history — with former star Jarrett Parker’s 94 in 2009 — for hits in a single season.
The left-handed hitting Teel upped his average to .420.
“None of it surprises any of us,” said O’Connor about Teel’s strong showing on Wednesday.
“He’s extremely talented,” O’Connor continued. “But his greatest quality is that he comes with enthusiasm to the ballpark every day. He loves to play and it’s incredibly refreshing. It’s fun to coach. It’s fun to be around, and that’s a quality that he’s always brought for three years and you combine that with the ability he has, it makes him a special player.”
Teel’s single came following Jake Gelof’s walk to ignite a game-breaking eight-run frame.
Casey Saucke singled home a run to push the Cavaliers’ advantage to 4-0 and Anthony Stephan’s two-run triple made it 6-0. A two-run double by Griff O’Ferrall and a three-run homer from Ethan O’Donnell put the contest completely out of reach.
O’Connor said as the game went on, the at-bats around Teel improved significantly.
“I think we’ve had a great mentality as an offense the last couple of weeks,” Saucke said. “And we have a lot of depth in our lineup, and I’m just really happy to see us doing big things right now.”
Saucke finished 3-for-5 with two RBI.
Hoos starting pitcher Nick Parker (7-0, 3.78) stayed unbeaten by tossing all seven innings. His outing was the longest by any starter in the ACC Tournament through Wednesday’s games, and because O’Connor didn’t have to utilize his bullpen at all, the Cavaliers will have everyone but Parker available to pitch against the Tar Heels on Thursday.
O’Connor said left-hander Connelly Early will start against UNC.
Parker yielded only four hits and struck out five, and Georgia Tech didn’t score until Angelo Dispigna’s solo homer in the home seventh.
“Certainly, we played a great baseball game,” O’Connor said, “and that started with Nick Parker going out there, throwing seven innings and shutting down arguably the best offense in this league.”