Menlo School graduate Griff McGarry shines for University of Virginia after tough road to Omaha | Local
On and off the pitch, the past year hadn’t been in Griff McGarry’s favor at all.
Pitch at the University of Virginia, 2020 seemed like McGarry’s breakout season. The Menlo School graduate had finally realized his potential on the NCAA Division I stage, winning the ace distinction as a Virginia starter on Friday night, delivering a 3-0 record with a 1 ERA, 35 in four starts.
Then came the closure of the 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic. And when McGarry returned, his remade junior season in 2021 quickly went south. His struggles resulted in a demotion in the bullpen and he remains winless this season, recording a 0-5 record with a 6.06 ERA.
âThe first few games I pitched pretty well, but I kind of hit a little bump in the road,â said McGarry. âIt was definitely a tough time for me, but thanks to my teammates, friends and familyâ¦ they helped me get over this bump. I feel like I’m in a good position now.
He certainly is. McGarry and the Virginia Cavaliers open the game Sunday at varsity baseball’s biggest stage, the College World Series.
McGarry is largely responsible for qualifying the Cavs for the eight-team field in Omaha, Nebraska, taking the ball in Game 2 of the Super Regional Playoffs against Dallas Baptist University in Columbia, South Carolina. It was Virginia’s fifth elimination game of the playoffs, and McGarry responded with the game of his life.
âI was next,â McGarry said. “And I was really happy to be able to move forward with my team until the next elimination game.”
With pitching rotation in the face of general panic – the previous weekend Virginia played six games in the Columbia Regional, rebounding from a Game 1 loss to South Carolina to move into the Super Regionals by winning five games straight away – McGarry took the ball with the Cavs needing to win two straight games in the Super Regional and shot seven clean innings in a 4-0 win.
McGarry allowed just two hits while striking out 10, spitting fire into the Founders Park arena with his lively presence. Unshaven as a pitcher should be in a funk, he yawned and screamed to regain his ace form, leaving the hill after seven solid innings in the middle of a 0-0 draw before Virginia hit two. times at the end of the eighth to tell the difference.
âTo be honest, I was just trying to get as far as I can,â McGarry said of the most important non-decision of his life. âIn these elimination games, after you’ve already played a match, it’s important to save your pen. My objective was therefore to bring us to the next dayâ¦ and to help my team to win.
Rewards during a rocky season
Not that the regular season was without great moments for McGarry.
If his larger-than-life presence on the Super Regional’s national television stage seemed well-practiced, it’s because the right-handed fireballer was on the mound for another epic celebration in 2021. On May 14, McGarry shut down a non- staff. batter in a 17-0 win over Wake Forest.
Senior starter Andrew Abbott – McGarry’s roommate for the past three seasons – worked 7 1/3 innings, striking out 16, before giving way to reliever Jake Berry in the eighth. McGarry emerged in the ninth to close the no-no by taking the side out and finishing the hitter-less seventh in Virginia history.
âIt was awesome,â McGarry said. âThe guys kinda jumped out of the canoe. It was pretty cool because my roommate had actually started the gameâ¦ just an amazing performance – like 16 strikeouts, no hits – just surreal to see. So, it was special for me to be able to wrap this up and be able to make it happen for him. “
The big celebrations have been a kind of catharsis after the lost 2020 season, even for the generally mild-mannered McGarry.
For his Cavalier teammates, he was the focal point of the debut of the lost 2020 year of the coronavirus. When Menlo School closed its campus in the first week of May after a staff member came into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID, it made international news. That’s when McGarry began to realize the scale of the burgeoning pandemic, when his teammates in Virginia started asking him: isn’t that where you went to school?
Then, after the series victory over North Carolina State to open the Atlantic Coast Conference game March 6-8, the Cavaliers traveled by bus for a three-game road trip to the University of Pittsburgh. About halfway through, the bus was routed to a mall parking lot and was held on hold as news of the series’ possible cancellation arrived.
Players were reporting via social media that the NBA had just announced the cancellation of its season due to the pandemic. And as McGarry and a horde of teammates threw a soccer ball around the mall parking lot, the team received the ominous news that would wipe out the 2020 season.
âDespite the closure and coming home, I continued to train with my older brother and we were still able to play wrestling on a local court,â said McGarry. “I worked pretty hard last summer and was feeling pretty good heading into the fall.”
In a roundabout way, McGarry landed in Virginia because of his older brother, Matt.
Matt recently completed his academic career as a postgraduate student at the University of Santa Clara. The right-hander had modest results in 2021, going 0-1 with an inflated 12.46 ERA in eight appearances.
Santa Clara was Matt’s second go-around after initially playing Vanderbilt, another college baseball powerhouse. And it was while Matt – who graduated from Menlo-Atherton – was still in high school but had already committed to Vandy that the two brothers watched Matt’s future team take on Virginia on television.
“Their defense really marked me, especially in 2015,” said McGarry. “Seeing those quick double playsâ¦ it made me fall in love with their fluid defense and spectacular.”
While young McGarry has moved into prime time, don’t count on Matt just yet. McGarry said his older brother aspires to play professional baseball. Despite the control issues, heat of over 90 mph does not grow on trees.
As for Griff McGarry’s legacy, he hopes the best chapter of the 2021 season remains to be written. In the meantime, he is certainly enjoying the trip. Upon arriving in Omaha on Thursday night, the Cavaliers headed to TD Ameritrade Park for a press conference, with photo ops and videos to use throughout the College World Series.
“It was just surreal,” McGarry said of his arrival under a bed of stars at TD Ameritrade, where the famous “Road to Omaha” statue on the outside depicts the likeness of Virginia manager Brian O’Connor. . “I’ve seen it so many times on TV so just being able to see it in person was really great.”
Now, having won six playoff games in the first two rounds of the playoffs, Virginia is looking to do more magic. The Cavaliers are one of two teams in the tournament, along with North Carolina State, to enter the unranked playoffs. Virginia previously wore the Cinderella crown, going from unranked outsider to national champion in 2015.
And what’s more, the Cavaliers have played their best baseball with their backs against the wall this playoff – personified by McGarry’s Game 2 gem in the Super Regional.
âI think it really gives us confidence,â McGarry said. âEven when our backs are against the wall and we are under pressure, we are still able to perform. I think this team has shown a lot of courage and courage this season. â¦ The phrase: ‘Nothing is ever easy’, I think we’ve learned that.