For the first time in a long time, there was no game to prepare for as the Virginia Cavaliers relaxed at their ball field in Charlottesville, Va., on Thursday afternoon.
They finished 53-16, pushing Vanderbilt to the limit Wednesday before ending as runner-up in the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.
Shenendehowa graduate Branden Cogswell, the second baseman for the Cavaliers, said everyone reacted in their own way to coming so close but falling just short. He’s handling it well and is keeping in mind the team’s accomplishments.
“There’s nothing you can do about it,” Cogswell said. “We had fun. We had the best year in UVA history, so you’ve got to come out with some positives.”
Vanderbilt won Game 1 of the championship series, 9-8, scoring all nine if its runs in the third inning. Facing elimination, Virginia came back in Game 2 with a 7-2 victory. The deciding game fell the way of the Commodores (51-21) late Wednesday night, 3-2.
Cogswell was held hitless in the final game, but still finished the three-game series hitting .385 with two runs and an RBI, along with an on-base percentage of .429. He went 5-for-8 over the first two games.
In the six games at Omaha, he hit .391 with an on-base percentage of .500. In the 12 games the Cavs played in the NCAA tournament, he hit .327 with three doubles, nine runs and seven RBI. He drew eight walks, hit one sacrifice fly and four sac bunts.
In the field, he was perfect with 21 put-outs and 41 assists in 12 games.
The bunting was eye-catching. In tight games on the biggest stage, Cogswell was asked to move runners around, and twice in the last four games placed perfect safety squeeze bunts down the first-base line for key RBI.
“It’s something I’ve been doing all year, but I think people start noticing because of the stage you’re on,” he said. “But that’s really how I get most of my RBI, I’m not going to lie to you.”
Cogswell’s own approach to his time in Omaha was to make sure he had fun.
It also was the approach the Cavs took into games against Vanderbilt — every game — even after dropping the opening contest.
“It was the same as the day before,” Cogswell said of Game 2. “We were out there before batting practice, we had a half hour to get things situated and get ready for the game. Guys were out in the outfield behind third base just goofing off. I think that’s what really changed from the ACC tournament to our final game. We didn’t flip a switch, but we said, ‘Hey, we’re going to go play for each other, and we’re going to play loose and relaxed. We’re going to enjoy this ride, because this is what we worked for.’ It really showed, on the field and offensively.”
They nearly got it going again late in Game 3, loading the bases in the eighth inning with one out, trailing, 3-2, but a pair of groundouts ended the threat.
The Commodores held on to celebrate their first championship, and the Cavs packed their bags without the one souvenir they came for.
“I’m not over it, at all,” Cogswell said, “but I’m slowly starting to accept it and get ready for the next chapter.”
The next chapter is set in an as yet undetermined location. Cogswell was drafted in the seventh round of the MLB draft by the Oakland Athletics earlier this month, and he hopes to sign his contract in the next week. After that, the A’s will assign him to one of their minor-league teams.
He said he is looking forward to improving at the plate, perhaps putting on a few more pounds of muscle mass to add more power.
“At Virginia, I put on 20 pounds,” he said. “It may not look like it, but I was a scrawny little kid coming out of high school. Another 15 wouldn’t hurt.”
He said he doesn’t much care where he goes. He’s just excited to get back on a field to get ready for the next game.
“The worst thing you can do, in my opinion, is not play,” Cogswell said. “Those live reps are what get you better and keep you moving.”