The secret behind the UVA baseball resurgence

virginia baseballThree weeks ago, the UVA baseball team seemed to be on life support, at 20-14 and on the heels of losing a weekend series at Boston College.

Then the Cavs reeled off a series win at home against UNC, then went on the road and took two of three from top-ranked Miami.

A sweep at Pitt last weekend, and from life support, Virginia is 15th in the RPI, 31-17 overall, and with the schedule giving the ‘Hoos their final seven regular-season games at home, there’s a good chance that they’re in line to be hosting an NCAA regional, and who knows, another Super Regional?

So, what happened? No surprise, but the pitching has come around.

Ace Connor Jones has been Connor Jones (9-1, 1.95 ERA). Adam Haseley has emerged as the Saturday guy (7-2, 1.35 ERA), and Sundays, like last spring, have been interesting.

UVA has won its last three Sunday games, two of those wins, against the Heels and ‘Canes, giving them series wins, with former closer Alec Bettinger (1-4, 5.45 ERA) getting the ball as the starter.

Bettinger was decent in the 7-3 win at Miami on April 24, giving up three runs on four hits in six innings, striking out two and walking four in getting the W.

He was the opposite of lights-out in no-decisions in what turned into Virginia wins over UNC and Pitt, and in his four starts his ERA has been a ghastly 5.79 (versus a slightly less ghastly 5.09 when he was, ahem, closing).

The best we can say is, the flip that coach Brian O’Connor engineered moving Bettinger into the rotation and moving his original Sunday starter, Tommy Doyle, to closer is working for now.

Doyle (1-5, 4.78 ERA) may be the secret to this success of late. Dating back to the opener of the Carolina series, Doyle has three saves in six appearances, allowing one earned run in eight and a third innings, with 10 strikeouts.

Looking ahead to the postseason, the challenge is going to be finding a third starter, or at the least figuring out how to get through a game, or games, after Jones and Haseley are used up.

Daniel Lynch (1-3, 5.50 ERA) was the Saturday starter opening weekend but has failed to come anywhere close to expectations. It’s hard to imagine at this point that he does anything more than give you an emergency start in the postseason, and by emergency start we mean a start on the regional weekend following a loss that sends the ‘Hoos to the losers’ bracket and throws the best laid plans of O’Connor and Karl Kuhn up in the air.

Lynch has made eight starts this year. Doyle, the new closer, is next with seven, and Bettinger, the former closer, has four, so at this stage there doesn’t seem to be anyone else in the wings with the endurance to give you five innings in the postseason.

The game plan for regional weekend is Jones W, Haseley W, with Doyle closing things out, and figure it out on Sunday with Bettinger and Johnny Allstaff against a team that is down to its fourth guy.

This was the formula in 2015, and it worked out OK, if you remember.

Column by Chris Graham

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