OMAHA, Neb. — Virginia’s Kenny Towns thrives on the pressure this time of year. So he was right where he wanted to be in a tie game late in the opener of the College World Series.
Towns delivered a tiebreaking eighth-inning double after Daniel Pinero stole second and third base, and the Cavaliers defeated Arkansas 5-3 on Saturday.
“I feel comfortable in the postseason with games on the line. The past couple years I’ve been here and I’ve gotten used to it,” said Towns, whose 22 RBIs in 26 career NCAA tournament games are a school record. “You want to rise up for your team and give them a better chance to win. I’ve been able to get the opportunity and succeed sometimes.”
The Cavaliers (40-22), the 2014 national runners-up, advanced to a Monday game against Florida. The Razorbacks (40-24) will meet Miami.
Virginia took a gutsy offensive approach, matching its season high with five stolen bases on eight attempts, and Connor Jones turned in a solid six-inning start despite struggling with his command.
The Cavaliers, a No. 3 regional seed and the lowest to make it to Omaha, have won all six of their games in the national tournament. They’ve scored 27 of their 37 tournament runs in the sixth inning or later.
“That ballgame is kind of how we played the last couple weeks,” coach Brian O’Connor said. “Connor Jones certainly didn’t have his best stuff, but he grinded. Our plan coming into this World Series was to be very aggressive and take the fight to the other team, and we did that from an offensive standpoint.”
Josh Sborz (5-2), who started two CWS games last year and is now the Cavaliers’ closer, struck out five of 10 batters in three innings.
Arkansas tied it at 3 in the fifth on Andrew Benintendi’s nation-leading 20th home run. That was the second homer of the game at TD Ameritrade Park, which surrendered only three each of the past two years in the CWS. Virginia’s Joe McCarthy had opened the scoring with a drive into the right-field seats in the second.
FLORIDA 15, MIAMI 3: Florida scored 11 runs in the fourth inning to tie a College World Series record, handing Miami its most lopsided loss in a long and proud postseason history.
The Gators’ outburst broke open a surprisingly sloppy game and ended with Florida having turned a 2-1 deficit into a 10-run lead on nine hits off Andrew Suarez and two relievers.
Florida (50-16) advanced to a Bracket 1 winners game against Virginia on Monday night. Miami (49-16) and Arkansas will play an elimination game that afternoon.
Logan Shore (10-6) scattered seven hits and struck out six in five innings for the win. Suarez (9-2) took the loss in a 3.1-inning outing.