Home Jacob Ference, former mid D3 catcher, grows into big role for #2 UVA

Jacob Ference, former mid D3 catcher, grows into big role for #2 UVA

Chris Graham
jacob ference uva baseball
Photo: UVA Athletics

Jacob Ference, the catcher/DH who has 17 homers and a 1.203 OPS for #12 Virginia this season, didn’t have an offer out of high school, ended up at D3 Salisbury, and didn’t exactly light it up there for a long while – he had six homers, combined, his first three seasons, and as a junior in 2021-2022, he slashed a meh .258/.393/.392 with two homers and a .785 OPS.

Ference had a breakout senior year, slashing .364/.460/.773 with a school-record 14 homers and a 1.233 OPS, then hit the transfer portal.

Associate head coach Kevin McMullan did the leg work and evaluation on Ference, according to UVA head coach Brian O’Connor, as the staff looked for options to replace first-round MLB Draft pick Kyle Teel, one of the stalwarts of last year’s College World Series team.

The plan was to use Ethan Anderson, a top catching prospect in high school who had mainly played at first base at UVA, as the primary guy behind the plate, “but we knew that we needed somebody else with some experience,” O’Connor said, “and we looked at a lot of catchers in the transfer portal, some big-name catchers that are catching at some big-name schools right now, and we decided that Jacob Ference was the right fit for us.”

That’s a skill right there, being able to look at the body of work of a D3 guy who is the classic late bloomer, and see 17 homers and 1.203 OPS for a team two games away from going back to the College World Series.

“I mean, it was everything I could hope for,” Ference told reporters after Virginia’s 9-2 win over Mississippi State on Sunday night.

“Obviously, you know, the history of this program and just kind of like the culture that is embedded into it, you know, it speaks for itself. And, you know, coming from Salisbury, you know, it’s a lot of similarities, and you know, I’m just glad to be a part of it and contribute in any way I can,” Ference said.

He contributed in a big way in the Charlottesville Regional, going 4-for-10 at the plate with three bases on balls, with his third-inning RBI single in the Game 3 win on Sunday knocking in the go-ahead run.

I like the story that O’Connor told Sunday night about how Ference convinced him that UVA needed him.

“I think you were in Myrtle Beach riding jet skis, you know,” O’Connor said, gesturing at Ference, seated to his left, “and I was down in Georgia doing some high school recruiting, and I had a 45-minute conversation with him about why, like, why do you want to do this, and why UVA be the right place? It’s those answers that you hear. You have to have talent, skill, which he possessed, but it’s the why that’s important, because we want to make sure it’s the right guy that’s going to join forces with us moving forward. And we’re just so grateful that it worked out.”

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham, the king of "fringe media," is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].