OMAHA, Neb. ——Just before the season began, Virginia coach Brian O'Connor looked at Saturdays on his schedule with both excitement and intrigue.
He was excited about what he believed his new No. 2 starter would do for the pitching staff after watching the way the right-hander battled his way out of the bullpen the previous three seasons. The intrigue was the product of the uncertainty of the move.
An 8-0 record in starts has been a clear indication that he's done OK.
"That kid's just been a warrior for our team since he's been in our uniform," O'Connor said Monday afternoon during Virginia's off-day practice at Creighton. "He's just our consummate team player."
Wilson's team-player responsibilities were on display for the nation to see Sunday afternoon, as he was forced to revert to his old duties in order to help the Cavaliers (55-10) beat California in their opening game of the College World Series. His near spotless 2-1/3 innings in relief of starter Danny Hultzen held the Golden Bears down just long enough for Virgina's offense to gut out a 4-1 win.
Although the appearance was just Wilson's third out of the bullpen this season, it helped showcase the versatility he has as a multi-use pitcher.
"It was great," Wilson said. "Like I've always said, it's just a privilege to get the ball, whether it's out of the bullpen or as a starter."
Last Thursday, as the Cavaliers were making their final preparations for the CWS, O'Connor informed Wilson that he wanted to use him in the Sunday game if Hultzen got in trouble. He also wanted him to remain fresh enough to come back for the potential third CWS game this Thursday.
"I knew going into the game that that was the plan of attack," Wilson said. "It was good to get my feet wet and to get out there and to give our team a chance to win."
After Hultzen left the game in the top of the seventh with a scoreless tie, Wilson shut down the side ahead of a two-run Cavaliers rally in the bottom half. The runs proved to be all they needed.
"I was just in the bullpen and I didn't know what was going to happen, but I just said that mentally, I need to stay in the game and just stay engaged with where the flow of the game was going," Wilson said.
He noted Hultzen's early struggles as a sign he might have to be used.
Although he struck out the side in the first, the lefty starter threw 28 pitches in the opening inning, and was up to 82 by the fourth. He finished with 113.
Before this season, Wilson had made 69 relief appearances. In combined bullpen and spot-start efforts, he was 17-7 entering the year.
O'Connor said he decided the senior deserved to be in the starting rotation because of that success and because of where it seems his talents could take him at the next level.
"I thought that would be the best thing for his development for a pitcher going into pro ball and I thought that's what our team needed," O'Connor said. "Fortunately it worked."
Wilson was selected in the 35th round of this month's major league baseball draft by the Cincinnati Reds.