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College baseball ODU pounds No. 1 U.Va.
College baseball   ODU pounds No. 1 U.Va.

Steady mist and a devilish wind blowing hard from center field made for some adventurous college baseball at Harbor Park on Tuesday night.

But while Old Dominion flawlessly handled the conditions, they flustered top-ranked Virginia to distraction - and then to defeat.

The Cavaliers, the second-ranked fielding team in the country, committed a season-high four errors in an 8-1 loss before an announced crowd of 2,937.

U.Va.'s poor glove work only opened the door for ODU, however.

The Monarchs (27-18) of Conference USA bashed it in from there, out-hitting the Cavaliers 9-4 and sweeping them away with a four-run eighth inning off freshman reliever Connor Jones from Chesapeake's Great Bridge High.

"That was just a good old-fashioned butt-kicking," said U.Va. coach Brian O'Connor, whose ACC-leading squad (37-9) defeated ODU 7-1 in Charlottesville on April 1.

"They beat us in every area of the game. They handled the elements very, very well and had a lot more competitive at-bats than we did. They absolutely earned it."

Virginia's lone highlight came in the second inning when it bunched three hits and its only run off ODU starter Brett Harris, a sixth-year senior from Hickory High in Chesapeake.

Harris escaped bases-loaded, one-out trouble with a third-to-first double play, then allowed no more hits in his five-inning stint. Three more Monarch pitchers blanked the Cavaliers the rest of the way on one hit - an infield single in the ninth.

Meanwhile, ODU took the lead for good in the third inning when the Cavaliers made their first error in five games - and followed it with another on the next play.

Starting pitcher Artie Lewicki couldn't pick up Ben Slaton's dribbler up the first-base line with one on and two out. P.J. Higgins then lifted a pop toward second baseman John La Prise, a sophomore making his first collegiate start at second; he's started 16 games at third this season.

But the ball drifted to behind first base, where La Prise had it glance off his glove for a boot that allowed both ODU runners to score.

It stayed 2-1 until Josh Eldridge tripled home Taylor Ostrich in the sixth and scored on Connor Myers' infield single for a 4-1 lead.

"It was definitely good to get on them early, especially because you never know what's going to happen with the weather," Eldridge said. "(Conditions) got a lot better toward the end. You've just got to tough through it."

The Cavs committed two more errors that didn't result in runs. While O'Connor said he didn't think the wind and the wet weighed on his players - "They're pretty mentally soft, quite frankly, if (it) did," he said - he praised ODU's crisp effort.

"This has a lot to do with ODU and how well they played, it's pretty simple," O'Connor said. "I'm glad we came down here, we needed this. It humbles you quickly; we know that certainly we don't have this thing figured out and we have to keep getting better."

ODU coach Chris Finwood said he was happy for Harris, who has had arm surgery twice, and proud of a team that he said backed up what he's told them all season.

"Like I've said, when we play well, we have a chance to beat most people we play," Finwood said. "We just have to play well, and tonight we did."

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