Chris Graham: Don’t worry, UVa. baseball will be alright

baseball-newThe last thing you want as a college baseball coach heading into an eight-day final-exam break is to go into that break after getting pasted 8-1 on the road. Right? Well, don’t assume that UVa. baseball coach Brian O’Connor is thrilled, but he’s more OK with the ugly loss to Old Dominion Tuesday night than you might think.

Virginia returns from its exam break with a game against Liberty, currently 35-10 and ranked 22nd in the RPI, and the Flames are 3-3 vs. ACC teams, including splitting a pair of tight games last week against Clemson and North Carolina. Then next weekend it’s a three-game series with a Georgia Tech team that is currently 26-19 and ranked 32nd in the RPI, which means the Yellow Jackets could use a series win to bolster its NCAA resume.

Think O’Connor will have a hard time getting his team’s attention heading into next week now?

Baseball is a cruel game. Think about your average top-ranked college football team playing somebody outside the Top 25. God love ‘em, but the team outside of the Top 25 is just as likely to lose by seven touchdowns as they are to have even a whiff of a chance to pull off the upset. But baseball, oh, baseball: you’re only as good as your starting pitcher, your defense and your ability to string a few hits together.

Tuesday night was one of those nights that just didn’t work from the start for UVa., which has as many errors (four) as it did base hits (four) on the night, and didn’t really threaten after scoring a single run in the second and then blowing a chance to add more with a double play that killed a bases-loaded, one-out rally.

But aside from the box score, it wasn’t a totally wasted effort. Starter Artie Lewicki took the tough-luck loss, giving up four runs, two earned, in six innings of work, but Lewicki had his longest outing of the season, didn’t walk a batter while striking out six, and showed that he’s ready to be a valuable fourth starter when the postseason comes around.

There has to be some concern that freshman reliever Connor Jones is hitting the wall after putting up another subpar outing, but if it’s something mechanical, then there are eight days to figure that out and get Jones back to being the best seventh-inning guy in the ACC in time for money ball in late May and June.

You don’t like seeing the off-night from an offense that was just starting to get going with the return of Derek Fisher from his long absence due to injury, but again, that happens.

Baseball reminds you every once in a while that when you think you have it figured out, really you don’t, and you have to keep working at it.

Only one team wins the last game that matters. UVa. is still as poised as anybody in the country to be that team.



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Team of Destiny: Inside UVA Basketball's improbable run

Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is available for $25.

The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.



 
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