HANK KURZ Jr.
AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) -- Brian O'Connor's Virginia team came up short in its first trip to the College World Series finals, losing 3-2 to Vanderbilt in the decisive game. The Cavaliers' coach is determined to not let the loss define his players or their season.
Virginia lost when closer Nick Howard allowed a home run to John Norwood in the eighth inning that proved the difference. The Cavaliers loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the inning, but failed to score.
"It's tough when you end the season with a loss," O'Connor told about 1,000 fans who turned out Thursday at Davenport Field for a welcome home party. "Somebody has to do it."
The crowd showed no signs of the disappointment evident among some of the players. The fans delighted in watching a video of season highlights and cheered loudest for some of the most disappointed Cavaliers.
"There's still a lot of heartache," O'Connor said afterward. "This one's going to hurt for a while and it should because when you work so hard and have the opportunity in front of you and it doesn't work for you, you can't just accept it."
Senior pitcher Artie Lewicki, one of the stars of the Cavaliers' CWS run with 13 scoreless innings in four appearances, allowed just one unearned run in six innings of relief in the final game after replacing Josh Sborz in the second inning.
Before bringing the team out to meet the fans, Lewicki said O'Connor shared his thoughts about not letting one loss define their season, a year in which they won 53 times in 69 games. He told them to be sure to remember the good, too.
"It's a lot easier said than done," Lewicki said, noting that Virginia was done in by one bad inning.
It came in the opener, a nine-run third inning when Virginia ace Nathan Kirby lost control suddenly, leaving O'Connor needing to rush someone down to the bullpen to get loose. The Cavaliers' relievers held the Commodores scoreless the rest of the way and the offense clawed back before falling short, 9-8.
"That's baseball for you," Lewicki said. He, along with Sborz, Howard, infielders Mike Papi and Brandon Cogswell, and outfielder Derek Fisher all have likely played their final college games, having been drafted earlier this month.
Kenny Towns, one of the few everyday players who will be back next season, wasn't buying sour grapes.
"The only thing that really matters is that they beat us in a three-game series," he said.
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