CHARLOTTESVILLE — Danny Hultzen was thrown out at home plate, hit a batter and gave up an RBI triple. So good is Virginia's All-American pitcher and two-way threat that it's more remarkable on the rare occasions when he doesn't succeed.
Hultzen's missteps were mere punctuation marks in a routinely superb outing, as the junior left-hander led the Cavaliers to a 10-2 victory against St. John's Saturday in the NCAA regional at Davenport Field.
Hultzen, second in the nation in strikeouts, fanned 12 and allowed only three hits in seven innings. For the second day in a row, he also swung an effective bat, going 2-for-4 with an RBI.
"Danny Hultzen is a special talent," Red Storm coach Ed Blankmeyer said. "If I'm sitting there in the first round (of the Major League draft), I'm taking him. Dominant, deceptive, very tough to hit at 6 o'clock, with the shadows coming out. But he's very special."
Virginia (51-9) awaits the winner of the St. John's-East Carolina elimination game at 1 p.m. Sunday. A Cavs' win Sunday at 6 o'clock sends them to the Super Regionals. A loss forces a Monday, winner-take-all rematch.
A year ago, St. John's came to Charlottesville in the NCAA regional and bounced Virginia in a Sunday game, forcing a Monday title game. That scenario could play out again, but the Red Storm (36-21) were no match for the Cavaliers and Hultzen on Saturday.
Steven Proscia had a home run and three runs batted in to lead a balanced 14-hit attack. Eight of nine starters hit safely, and six starters scored.
"We played about as good of a ball game as you can possibly play," U.Va. coach Brian O'Connor said.
For the second consecutive day, the Cavaliers gave their starter a two-run cushion in their first at-bat. Proscia's eighth home run of the season, a no-doubt blast to left field, gave Virginia a 2-0 lead.
"It gave us momentum right away, right out of the gate," Hultzen said of the early lead. "It gave me even more confidence to go out on the mound and throw strikes and make them hit me, instead of them kind of nit-picking in a tie game. Having those runs right out of the gate was huge."
The Cavaliers also demonstrated two-out and two-strike resourcefulness, just as they did in a Friday win against Navy, and even had a bit of luck. David Coleman and Jared King delivered two-out RBI singles in the fourth inning to push the lead to 4-0.
"It seemed like 100-0 at that point," Blankmeyer said.
In the fifth, the Cavs chased St. John's starter Kyle Hansen with two on and one out. Reliever Stephen Rivera got Proscia to hit what looked like a double-play ball, but it took a wicked hop over shortstop Joe Panik's head for an RBI single.
Hultzen then helped his own cause with a run-scoring single. Two batters later, Coleman turned on a 1-2 pitch that scored Proscia for a 7-0 lead. More than enough for Hultzen.
"You read about him," St. John's left fielder Jeremy Baltz said, "but you don't understand how effective he is until you get in the batter's box."
Hultzen (11-3) spotted a fastball that climbed to 94 mph, according to the Davenport Field radar gun, and kept hitters off-balance with his off-speed pitches.
"It all started with the fastball," he said. "I was able to throw strikes, get ahead of hitters with it. Then use the slider and changeup. That's the way I try to pitch every time – be aggressive, get ahead of them and then try to bury them with either the slider or the changeup when I'm ahead in the count."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times