John Barr excels as DH in Virginia's NCAA regional victories
John Barr stepped into the Davenport Field batter's box with two outs and runners on base in both the second and third innings of Saturday's 13-7 win over Mississippi. He's the No. 9 hitter in a potent Virginia lineup who represented the Rebels' opportunity to end the inning before the Cavaliers' lineup turned over.
Barr drove in runs while reaching base both times, finishing the evening batting 4 for 4 with 4 RBI. Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco pointed to the production at the end of Virginia's lineup as an indication of what makes the NCAA tournament's fifth-overall seed so dominant after two wins in the NCAA regional.
Barr, the Cavaliers' designated hitter, has proven throughout the season that he is not a typical No. 9 hitter. He bats .380, starting 60 percent of Virginia's games and almost every game during the stretch run. He was also an all-star in the prestigious Cape Cod Summer League, and the Cavaliers' lauded outfield -- three of the team's first five batters start in the outfield -- has kept Barr from filling the lineup as a regular position player.
"John Barr is a really tough kid. He's a tough out," Coach Brian O'Connor said. "We just got really good depth, but I started to plug him in there pretty much every day in the final stretch run and in the conference tournament. And he's been clutch for us. The guy can hit. The guy can run. And I think that's been a big part of our offensive production this year. Time and time again, we're running a nine-hole hitter out there hitting .380. ...When you got someone swinging the bat like that, you turn the lineup over and you have Phil Gosselin coming up. It bodes pretty well."
Barr's at bats helped give the Cavaliers a 3-0 lead in the second inning, a 7-3 lead in the third inning, an 11-3 in the fourth inning and the final run of the game to cement the 13-7 final. The third inning hit was particularly important because it came after Ole Miss made a pitching change.
"I was looking for some pitches up in the zone, stay middle of the field, and came up with some runners in scoring position, so I just wanted to stay middle of field and do whatever I could do to drive the ball," Barr said. "I was fortunate enough to hit some on the barrel."
The production came one night after Barr went 1 for 3 with an RBI, run scored and stolen base against Virginia Commonwealth in the first game of the regionals. He is batting .636 in his last three games.
Barr plays left field when Phil Gosselin plays second base, but the Cavaliers' best lineup has included Keith Werman at second base and Gosselin in left field. That means Barr starts at designated. Werman (.430), Gosselin (.382) and Barr are the three top hitters in Virginia's lineup.
During Barr's senior year at Germantown Academy in suburban Philadelphia, he struggled with a shoulder injury that hindered his throwing and forced him into a designated hitter role for half the season. He could play a prominent role in the outfield next season if Virginia loses all three of its junior outfielders to professional baseball (Barr, too, is a junior), but Barr's role as designated hitter will be critical in the Cavaliers' run to its second consecutive College World Series during the next three weeks.
"I've done it before in practice and in previous years," Barr said. "These types of games, you're locked in on every pitch whether you're playing the field or DHing, so that's not really an issue."
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