Home The secret to the UVA run to Omaha: Pitching

The secret to the UVA run to Omaha: Pitching

uva-baseballThe weak point in UVA baseball’s underwhelming 2015 regular season was what has been the program’s strength since Brian O’Connor took the helm in 2004: pitching. But that’s so two weeks ago, to point that out.

The reason Virginia is headed back out to Omaha this week is, naturally, pitching. After stumbling through the regular season with a 3.60 team ERA, the staff has sparkled in the Cavs’ postseason run, with a 2.68 ERA in UVA’s five games, all wins.

Take out the disastrous first inning from starter Alec Bettinger in Virginia’s 14-10 win over Southern Cal in the Lake Elsinore Regional final last week, and it gets even better: nine earned runs in 47 innings, for a 1.72 staff ERA.

Connor Jones (2-0, 2.45 ERA in 14.2 IP), Brandon Waddell (0-0, 2.35 ERA in 15.1 IP) and Josh Sborz (1-0, 1 save, 0.00 ERA in 4.2 innings) have done the bulk of the work. Jones and Waddell pitched into the eighth inning in each of their four total starts, and in three of those four handed the ball directly to Sborz.

The addition of All-America lefty Nathan Kirby to the staff for the College World Series presents a number of possibilities. O’Connor indicated on Saturday that Kirby would work out of the bullpen in Omaha, perhaps giving him another option to close games out, freeing up Sborz to move into a long-relief role akin to the one that Artie Lewicki filled for Virginia in the 2014 CWS.

Kirby could also serve as a first-round MLB draft pick eighth-inning setup man as a bridge between Jones and Waddell and Sborz in the ninth.

The Cavs still have a big question mark assuming that they get past their first two games in Omaha as to who starts a Game 3 and possible Game 4 and Game 5 in pool play, but then again, so does everybody else at this stage in the college season.

Best-case scenario: Virginia wins its first two games with Jones, Waddell, Kirby and Sborz eating up those innings, guts out the third game with Johnny Allstaff to get to the final round, then gets one more start each out of Jones and Waddell, Kirby and Sborz finishing, to bring home the big trophy.

– Column by Chris Graham



Have a guest column, letter to the editor, story idea or a news tip? Email editor Chris Graham at [email protected]. Subscribe to AFP podcasts on Apple PodcastsSpotifyPandora and YouTube.