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The challenge for UVA: Getting nine innings from its depleted pitching staff

devin ortiz uva
Devin Ortiz. Photo courtesy UVA Media Relations.

Brian O’Connor doesn’t have a lot of options left, no offense, Devin Ortiz, who’s getting the ball to start tonight’s Columbia Regional championship game against ODU.

Ortiz, a senior first baseman/DH, has thrown just two innings this season, but he was used a lot out of the bullpen back in 2019, going 4-0 with a 1.78 ERA in 18 relief appearances, striking out 38 and walking nine in 35.1 innings, with an opponent batting average of .215.

That Ortiz from two years ago could be a Tampa Bay Rays-type opener, give you a couple, maybe three, innings, if things go really well.

That Ortiz is getting the start on the mound is a sign of how depleted the UVA pitching staff is at this point.

It didn’t help that Mike Vasil, who started the 13-8 win over Jacksonville on Saturday, and Griff McGarry, who started the 8-3 win over ODU last night, only gave O’Connor a combined five and a third innings, pushing the bullpen as the ‘Hoos had to navigate their way through the extra game forced upon them after they lost the opener to South Carolina on Friday.

The two saving graces were Matt Wyatt, who put up five scoreless innings in the 3-2 win over South Carolina in Sunday’s first game, and Brandon Neeck, who struck out an otherworldly 16 ODU hitters in a career-high five and two-thirds innings of relief in the win over ODU.

Those surprise long outings give O’Connor a fighting chance to cobble together nine innings from his staff tonight, still assuming a few things.

One, that Andrew Abbott, who went five and two-thirds innings in the opening loss to South Carolina, could come back on two days rest to give an inning, maybe two, if the first inning is an efficient one.

Abbott threw 88 pitches on Friday. Assuming he saved his between starts bullpen session for possible availability later in the regional, Abbott could be a go.

Two, that Vasil, who threw 53 pitches in two-plus innings on Saturday, could give an inning today on one day’s rest.

If Vasil had gone deeper into his Saturday start, you’d say no way, but two innings and 53 pitches is really just a long relief appearance.

Kyle Whitten threw 11 pitches on Friday and then 22 pitches on Saturday. I’m assuming he’s good for an inning or two tonight.

I’m also assuming that Zach Messinger, who went two and a third on Friday and then an inning and a third and 29 pitches in the early game on Sunday, and Nate Savino, who went four and two-thirds and 61 pitches on Saturday, are not available.

Definitely available: Stephen Schoch, the enigmatic one, who closed out the Sunday early game with two and a thirds and 37 pitches in his first outing of the weekend.

The blueprint:

  • Two innings from Ortiz, who has thrown two all season
  • Two innings from Vasil
  • One inning from Whitten
  • Two innings from Abbott
  • Two innings from Schoch

It can be done.

Story by Chris Graham

augusta free press
augusta free press
augusta free press

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