augusta free press news

‘Hoos, Hokies renew rivalry on diamond

Story by Chris Graham

You don’t have to tell UVa. baseball coach Brian O’Connor that Virginia Tech is ranked 20th in the Baseball America national poll this week to get him to think about how good the Hokies are on the diamond.

That lesson came last spring when Tech took two of three on the final weekend of the regular season from a Virginia team that promptly won nine of its next 10 to earn its first College World Series trip.

“I said it from the start of the season when people asked me what the league was going to be like this year. I told everybody that I thought Virginia Tech would be right in the mix because they’ve got a veteran team, a lot of guys that have had a lot of playing time the last couple of years, and you get rewarded for that when the players then get older,” said O’Connor, whose second-ranked Cavs (27-8, 10-5 ACC) play host to the Hokies (23-11, 8-7 ACC) with a three-game set beginning tonight.

Virginia has won four of its five ACC series in 2010. Virginia Tech, though, might be the hottest team in the league right now, coming off back-to-back weekend-series wins over Florida State and Miami.

The ‘Hoos, for their part, are coming off their first midweek loss of the season, a 12-3 drubbing on the road at #26 VMI on Wednesday.

“I was wondering this morning if the sun was going to come up, and it defniitely did. We’ll be fine,” said O’Connor on Thursday. “We’ve lost midweek games before. There’s absolutely no shame in losing to VMI. They showed last night what kind of ballclub they have, and anything can happen on a particular night in baseball.

“I’ve never really believed in one game creating motivation for the next game or the next series, just because we play so many games. I try to not allow our players to get real emotional from one game to another because it’s such a long haul. One game, one weekend, can’t make the difference in your season,” O’Connor said.
UVa. actually showed that last season with its big bounce back from losing two of three at Tech. The series defeat seemed to spell doom for the hopes of Virginia fans that they would be able to host a regional series at Davenport Stadium, and that did turn out to be the case even with the Cavs’ 4-0 run through the ACC Tournament the following week.

The presence of VMI on the periphery of the Top 25 and Tech in the national rankings at #20 is a great sign for baseball in the state of Virginia, according to O’Connor.

“It brings a lot of attention and shows the level of high-school baseball that we have in the state of Virginia. Virginia, Virginia Tech, VMI, Liberty’s having a really good year – for a lot of teams to be successful, it draws attention to how good the baseball is here. Just like the success that we have and have had over the last seven years has been good for all the programs in the state. I think it shows administrations at other schools that in the state of Virginia you can have a very successful baseball program,” O’Connor said.