Familiar formula for UVA baseball: Pitching, pitching, more pitching

uva-baseballThe weak link for UVA baseball in 2015, surprisingly, had been its vaunted pitching staff, which entered the NCAA Tournament with a mid-threes ERA, questions about who would start where, and issues closing out games.

Through two games of the Lake Elsinore Regional, where the Cavs are awaiting the winner of USC-San Diego State in Sunday’s regional final, the reason UVA is where it is has, yes, been pitching.

Connor Jones and Brandon Waddell both pitched into the eighth inning in their starts, giving up a combined two runs, one earned, in 15 innings, with Josh Sborz closing out each of the games, getting the save in the 6-1 win over the Trojans on Friday, and vulturing the win in the 3-1 decision over the Aztecs on Saturday.

That’s 18 innings, one earned run, team ERA of 0.50. So much for the pitching woes.

Jones has been lights out for a while, so his effort on Friday, seven and two-thirds innings, one run, five hits, wasn’t that much of a surprise. Waddell’s performance on Saturday was a welcome surprise, considering that he had come in with just a 3-5 record in a subpar, to say the least, junior season, and was coming off a poor outing in a loss to Notre Dame in the ACC Tournament (allowing six runs, four earned, on seven hits in six innings, striking out nine and walking five).

Waddell’s effort on Saturday – seven and a third innings, one unearned run, four hits, five strikeouts, two walks – was reminiscent of the 2014 Waddell.

Now the question for UVA: who pitches Sunday? Without All-America ace lefty Nathan Kirby available, and with Sborz, who has been spot-starting since Kirby went down in mid-April, unavailable after logging innings in relief in two games, it’s Johnny Allstaff for Virginia Sunday night.

Adam Haseley, the leadoff man and starting centerfielder, has been giving Virginia innings in the Allstaff role of late, going four and two-thirds in UVA’s loss to N.C. State in the ACC Tournament last weekend.

Virginia gets a team in either USC or San Diego State that itself will be likely to go the Johnny Allstaff route in a fourth game for the team that survives the losers bracket, so it may not be the disadvantage that you’d assume with the ‘Hoos having to go in that direction.

Worst case, UVA gets a game on Monday. For a team that a week and a half ago wasn’t a sure bet to even make its own conference tournament, it’s not a bad place to be, to say the least, and you can thank the pitching staff for that.

– Column by Chris Graham

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