Former UVA Baseball Star Again Delivers in the Clutch for a World Series Title

A baseball player winds up

During an outstanding career at UVA, Josh Sborz foreshadowed what he could do at the next level. (Photo illustration by Emily Faith Morgan, UVA Communications)

While a schedule conflict took him away from seeing it in person, Brian O’Connor was dialed into Game 5 of the World Series on Wednesday night from his home in the Charlottesville area. 

The Arizona Diamondbacks and Texas Rangers had just completed the eighth inning when O’Connor, the University of Virginia’s longtime head baseball coach, turned to his son and said, “I wonder if [Rangers manager Bruce] Bochy’s going to go with his gut and send Josh back out for the ninth?”

Later, when the game returned from commercial break for the bottom of the ninth inning, former Cavalier star Josh Sborz appeared back on the pitching mound. 

It's closer than you think. University of Virginia Northern Virginia
It's closer than you think. University of Virginia Northern Virginia

“And I was super pumped,” O’Connor said.

Sborz then retired the Diamondbacks in order, preserving the Rangers’ 5-0 win and wrapping up their first World Series title in franchise history.



Sborz on Wednesday pitched a scoreless 2 1/3 innings. He appeared in 10 games this postseason and allowed just one run over 12 pressure-packed innings of work. 

The clutch performance stirred up memories of eight years ago, when Sborz was named the Most Outstanding Player of UVA’s 2015 College World Series championship. The right-hander from McLean was equally as dominant then, going the final 27 innings of that season without allowing an earned run. 





“Josh was always a simple man who likes to just go about his business,” O’Connor said. “He never makes a situation too big. He has such poise and a calm demeanor. And when the lights are the brightest, whether that be in the College World Series or in the Major League World Series, it gives you the best chance to perform. He’s always shown that.”

With three of his former players involved in this World Series – including Hoos Pavin Smith and Jake McCarthy of the Diamondbacks – O’Connor had originally planned to attend Wednesday’s game in Phoenix, but later had to scrap the trip due to a conflict. Former UVA pitching coach Karl Kuhn did attend the game. 

O’Connor said his phone was “blowing up” in the eighth inning when Sborz faced Smith, a fellow UVA Baseball Hall of Famer and 2015 national champion. 



“I was excited and so proud of those guys,” O’Connor said, “but I was also a little nervous. ‘All right, who’s going to win this battle?’”

Sborz struck Smith out looking, adding to a night that made him only the third player in baseball history (along with Dansby Swanson and Jackie Bradley Jr.) to win the Major League Baseball World Series, the College World Series and be named the Most Outstanding Player of the CWS.



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