OMAHA, Neb. – Logan Michaels gave his dad one of the greatest Father's Day gifts imaginable Sunday.
In his first College World Series at-bat, the light-hitting catcher for Virginia homered for the first time this season. Jeff Michaels, a three-year pancreatic cancer survivor, was there to see his son do it — and more — in the Cavaliers' 6-0 victory over Tennessee.
After the game, television cameras showed a beaming Jeff Michaels holding the treasured ball in the stands behind the Virginia dugout.
“For someone to bring him the home run ball, and obviously for it to happen on Father's Day and at the College World Series — definitely a special moment for our family and for my dad and I,” Logan said.
Logan Michaels hit Chad Dallas’ hanging breaking ball out to left in the second inning for only his second homer in 343 at-bats since he joined the Cavaliers in 2019. His RBI single to center began a four-run seventh inning, and he singled and scored the Cavs’ final run in the ninth.
“When I hit that over the fence, I instantly started thinking about my dad,” Logan said. “I was sitting in the dugout after it happened and I got pretty emotional. For him to be here, for what he went through in the past, just for him to be able to see that, I couldn’t ask for any more.”
While Michaels provided a good portion of the offense, Andrew Abbott was at his best on the mound. The senior left-hander pitched six shutout innings and Matt Wyatt finished against what had been a powerful Tennessee offense averaging eight runs with 16 homers in its first five NCAA Tournament games.
“Andrew made some big key clutch pitches with runners in scoring position in multiple innings,” Virginia coach Brian O'Connor said. “That’s what your Friday night guy, your leader, your All-American, needs to do to win in Omaha.”
Virginia (36-25) continued its improbable postseason surge after making the tournament as a No. 3 regional seed. The Cavaliers are the first team since 2008 to make it to Omaha after losing openers in regionals and super regionals. They had to win six elimination games to advance to the CWS for the first time since they won the 2015 national championship.
Tennessee (50-17), the No. 3 national seed, came to the CWS off a six-home run game in a 15-6 super regional-clinching win over LSU. Against Virginia, the Vols had no extra-base hits, struck out 13 times and were held scoreless for the first time since April 16.
Abbott (9-6) allowed five singles, walked two and struck out 10 as Virginia posted its sixth shutout of the season, and second of the tournament. Dallas (11-2) went 6 1/3 innings and took the loss.
“There were some moments, whether it be on the mound or at the plate, that we lacked conviction, and it cost us a little bit,” Tennessee coach Tony Vitello said. "Toward the end, when the sore wasn't the way we wanted it, we uncharacteristically lost our edge a little bit. Vols fans deserve better, but it wasn’t like there wasn’t some try-hard and preparation. If anything, there may have been too much."
Tennessee, at the CWS for the first time since 2005, had runners on third base three times with less than two outs but couldn't push across a run. Abbott got a couple strikeouts to get out of the first inning, and second baseman Max Cotier saved a run with a leaping catch of a liner and shortstop Nic Kent pick up a grounder in the hole to throw out a runner in the fifth.
In the sixth, Tennessee's Luc Lipicus got caught looking at strike three and Jordan Beck went down swinging at a belt-high fastball.
“I got in more jams than I would have liked, to make things interesting,” Abbott said. “Having the team defense behind me and having (our) hitters stepping up at the plate made the difference.”
The day belonged to Michaels and his father.
Michaels came into the game batting .240 (6 for 25) in seven tournament games and .242 for the season. Jeff Michaels has been able to attend a few games each season, including super regionals last week.
No one would have envisioned Logan putting on the performance he did, though he said someone had asked him Saturday if he was going to hit a home run against Tennessee.
“I wanted to say yes,” he said.
O'Connor paused and was a bit choked up when asked about Michaels' game.
“There was a time three years ago I didn’t know if Logan Michaels would show up to campus with what he was dealing with with his father,” O'Connor said. “This day is special for all of us, but for him, I’m just elated for him that he can perform for his team and his father can sit there and watch him do it.”
Virginia: Plays on Tuesday night against the winner of the Mississippi State-Texas game Sunday night.
Tennessee: Plays on Tuesday against the Mississippi State-Texas loser.
More NCAA baseball tournament coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/college-world-series and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25