Home UVA #1 starter Connor Jones: From the pine to College World Series ace

UVA #1 starter Connor Jones: From the pine to College World Series ace


It didn’t make sense to Connor Jones at the time, what UVA baseball coach Brian O’Connor had to say to him after the 2014 College World Series.

O’Connor told Jones that he was happy that the freshman hadn’t gotten into a game in Omaha. Needless to say, Jones “didn’t fully grasp what Coach O’Connor meant at the time, but looking back on it a year later, he was 100 percent correct,” said Jones, who used the slight of being left out in the bullpen unused to fuel the fire that has him carrying the pitching staff as the ace in the return trip to the College World Series in 2015.

Jones (7-2, 2.96 ERA in 16 starts, 105K/103.1IP, .218 opponent batting average) is the key reason that Virginia is back out in Nebraska for the fourth time in seven years.

After 2014 All-America Nathan Kirby went down to injury in an April 17 start against Miami, Jones became the man, whether he was ready for that role or not.

“With where we were at in our season, and as far as how we’re doing so far, and how I was doing personally throughout the season, as far as inconsistencies and stuff, it was a rude awakening, and kind of a make it or break it time for the team and for myself. I was forced to step up and pitch much better for our team, and fortunately enough, I responded, and I’ve just been hitting stride from there,” Jones said in an interview this week with ACC Digital Network host Jeff Fischel.

Jones hasn’t lost in seven starts since the ‘Hoos lost Kirby, and he’s pitched at least seven innings in each of his seven starts.

The sophomore right-hander has ramped things up in the postseason, with a 2-0 record and 2.45 ERA in 14.2 innings, getting the win in the opener in the Lake Elsinore Regional against Southern Cal and then picking up the win in Game 1 of the Charlottesville Super Regional against Maryland.

The push that has Jones starting the opening game of the 2015 College World Series on Saturday at 3 p.m. Eastern when the Cavs match up with Arkansas dates back to his time as a spectator in uniform last June.

“At first I was pretty confused as to why he would say that,” Jones said of O’Connor’s observation about him not getting time on the mound in Omaha last year. “He said he knew I would want to help the team as much as I could, but he was glad that it happened from a learning perspective and standpoint, just being able to deal with failures and responding. I went off to summer ball and worked through some of the struggles again, and was able to turn it around this fall.”

Jones and the Cavs have their sights set high after falling a couple of innings short of a national championship in 2014, losing in Game 3 of the CWS Championship Series to Vanderbilt, 3-2.

“We played as many games as you can possibly play in a college season last year. To look back and think that we were one win away, it’s pretty tough, nut at the same time, it just gives you that same amount of confidence that you look for, that we were just one win away last year, and who’s to say we can’t do that again?” Jones said.

– Story by Chris Graham



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