OMAHA, Neb. — Logan Michaels stepped to the plate in the College World Series for the first time in his career with his father, Jeff, among the 22,130 watching in the stands.
Michaels, who hadn’t hit a home run all season, took Chad Dallas’ 2-1 pitch in the top of the third inning and deposited it over the left-field wall at TD Ameritrade Park.
ESPN’s cameras showed Jeff Michaels’ exuberant reaction. Logan’s dad, who was given a life-threatening pancreatic cancer diagnosis in 2018, lifted his hands over his head and let out a celebratory roar on Father’s Day.
“When it went over the fence, I started thinking about my dad and how it’s one of the most special moments we could share together,” Logan said.
Behind three hits and two RBI from Michaels and an excellent start from senior left-hander Andrew Abbott, Virginia opened its College World Series with a 6-0 win over No. 3 Tennessee on Sunday. The Cavaliers will face the winner of Texas and Mississippi State on Tuesday at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.
As is typical for this Virginia baseball team, the victory brought plenty of stress for Cavaliers fans, with the Volunteers in good position to win until the final three frames.
The end result, however, has UVa in the winners bracket.
“Hands down, there is no question about it, we are absolutely playing the best baseball of our year,” head coach Brian O’Connor said.
Abbott looked anxious to begin the game, dealing with nerves in his first College World Series appearance. His first three pitches were balls, and he walked leadoff batter Liam Spence on five pitches.
A Max Ferguson single through the right side, which Kyle Teel was unable to see momentarily in right field, advanced Spence to third.
UVa’s ace settled down after the first two batters. Two strikeouts and a pop out ended the top of the first frame, and Abbott cruised through the next three innings.
After four innings, Abbott recorded eight strikeouts and allowed just two hits. The left-hander kept a potent Tennessee lineup off the board.
Michaels’ solo home run in the top of the third, a leadoff shot over the left-center field wall, gave the Cavaliers an early edge. It was only the second home run of Michaels’ UVa career.
“I couldn’t believe it,” O’Connor said. “His swing is not for that, but the ball was up a little bit. He put a good swing on it.”
The Volunteers threatened in the fifth and sixth innings, but good defense and pitching kept Virginia in front 1-0. In the fifth, Tennessee put runners on second and third with one out.
Sophomore second baseman Max Cotier made a leaping grab on a line drive to record the second out of the inning. For the final out, junior shortstop Nic Kent fielded a ground ball to the right side of second base and made a throw on the run to end the frame.
“If you’re gonna win here in Omaha against these kind of teams, that infield defense has to be there,” O’Connor said. “It has to be great, and they were certainly fantastic today.”
The middle infield duo later turned a flashy double play to end the bottom of the eighth.
Facing adversity again in the sixth, Abbott recorded a pair of strikeouts with runners on second and third to end the inning. After the final strikeout, a swinging strikeout of Jordan Beck, Abbott yelled and fist-pumped as he walked back to the dugout.
Abbott finished the game tossing six innings, allowing no runs and striking out 10.
“The biggest thing was just trying to give the team the best chance to win,” Abbott said. “I didn’t really care about what I did personally. I just wanted to go out and give a strong start for our team and give us the best chance to win.”
Virginia broke the game open in the seventh, pushing four runs across the plate.
Six singles, including an RBI single from Michaels, two stolen bases and a sacrifice bunt helped the Cavaliers extend their lead to 5-0. Chris Newell, Zack Gelof and Cotier joined Michaels with RBI singles in the frame. Five of the six singles came consecutively, as the Cavaliers kept pushing runners across.
For the third consecutive game, the Cavaliers posted a four-run inning in one of the final three innings of the game.
Virginia added another run in the ninth when Michaels came around to score after opening the inning with a base hit to right field. Matt Wyatt recorded the final nine outs for UVa to complete the shutout. Virginia joins Charlotte and Vanderbilt as the only teams to shut out Tennessee this season.
Michaels finished the day 3-for-4 with two RBIs and three runs scored in one of the best offensive showings of his career.
“Proud,” O’Connor said, visibly emotional. “There was a time three years ago that I didn’t know if Logan Michaels would show up to campus because of what he was dealing with, with his father. He decided to come. He was encouraged by his parents to be here.”
The redshirt senior stayed at UVa and returned this spring for a fifth season, hoping for a chance to compete in the College World Series. He earned that opportunity Sunday and delivered an unforgettable Father’s Day memory.
“Just for him to be here and be able to see that, I couldn’t have asked for anything more,” Michaels said.