UVA Baseball: ‘Hoos open season this weekend in Arizona

uva baseballGetting you ready for the 2019 UVA baseball season, with the first pitch set for Friday when the ‘Hoos begin play in the inaugural MLB4 Collegiate Baseball Tournament in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The Cavaliers will take on No. 2 Vanderbilt on Friday night live on MLB Network at 7 p.m. EST before facing off against No. 17 TCU on Saturday (Feb. 16) and No. 24 Cal State Fullerton on Sunday (Feb. 17).

Game Coverage: Friday night’s matchup against Vanderbilt is the only televised game of the weekend, airing live on MLB Network at 7 p.m. EST. VirginiaSports.com will host a live radio stream of all three games. Links for the TV/radio broadcasts as well as the game’s live stats feed are available on VirginiaSports.com. Fans can also follow in-game updates on the team’s official twitter page (@UVABaseball).

PROBABLE STARTING PITCHERS

Friday

  • Vanderbilt: RHP Drake Fellows (7-4, 3.92 ERA, 96.1 IP, 35 BB, 107 SO)
  • Virginia: RHP Griff McGarry (0-2, 8.15 ERA, 17.2 IP, 16 BB, 22 SO)

Saturday

  • Virginia: RHP Mike Vasil (n/a)
  • TCU: RHP Jared Janczak (1-1, 3.00 ERA, 42 IP, 12 BB, 41 SO)

Sunday

  • Cal State Fullerton: RHP Michael Knorr (n/a)
  • Virginia: RHP Noah Murdock (2-2, 5.40 ERA, 13.1 IP, 4 BB, 13 SO)

*Statistics are from 2018

Leading Off

  • Friday night’s matchup against Vanderbilt will commence the 131st season of baseball at Virginia. The program has accumulated 2,326 wins and an overall winning percentage of .569.
  • Virginia is 37-9-1 in opening weekends during Brian O’Connor’s 15 years as head coach.
  • Virginia has picked up opening day wins in all but four seasons (11-4) under O’Connor’s direction.
  • The Cavaliers have opened up away from Charlottesville every year since 2010 and will play in the state of Arizona for the first time in program history.
  • Virginia will play a ranked opponent on opening day for the first time since 2010 when it played three games at No. 11 East Carolina. Vanderbilt, at No. 2 in the USA Today Coaches Poll is the highest ranked opponent on opening weekend in program history
  • Virginia has played all three opponents this weekend in Omaha. Cal State Fullerton in 2009, TCU in 2014 and Vanderbilt in 2014 & 2015. In 2015, all three programs were in the College World Series with Virginia finishing first, Vanderbilt the runner-up and TCU finishing tied for third place with Florida. The Cavaliers are 5-3 against this weekend’s team in the College World Series.
  • For the first time since 2009, Virginia comes into the season unranked in all of the five major polls. The Cavaliers made it to their first College World Series in 2009 and won 49 games.

The Rematch

  • Virginia and Vanderbilt will square off for the first time since meeting in back-to-back College World Series finals in 2014 & 2015. Both series went to a decisive game three, with Vanderbilt prevailing 3-2 in 2014 and Virginia outlasting the Commodores 4-2 the following year.
  • Virginia reliever Riley Wilson is the only remaining player from either team to have been a part of the 2015 National Championship team. Wilson was a redshirt freshman that season and was in the dugout for the championship series.
  • Head coaches Brian O’Connor (UVA) and Tim Corbin (Vanderbilt) are two of eight active coaches in DI college baseball to win a national championship
  • Since 2009 Virginia has accumulated 452 wins, the fourth most in the country in the span. Vanderbilt has racked up 442 wins, seventh most in the NCAA.
  • Only two other times in CWS history did two teams face each other in back-to-back CWS history (Oregon State/UNC – 2006-07; USC/Arizona State 1972-73). The UVA/Vanderbilt back-to-back was the only matchup where each team claimed a national championship

Fresh Starts

  • 2018 marked the first time in Brian O’Connor’s tenure that Virginia failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. The streak of 14-straight regionals was the fourth-longest in college baseball going into last season. Only two programs, Florida State (41-straight) and Cal State Fullerton (27-straight) hold active streaks more than 14.
  • In the history of college baseball only 15 programs have qualified for the NCAA Tournament 14-straight seasons.
  • Head Coach Brian O’Connor is one of five coaches ever to qualify for the NCAA Tournament in each of the first 14 seasons at the helm.
    Mike Martin, Florida State – 1980-present (39 seasons)
    Jim Morris, Miami – 1994-2016 (23 seasons)
    Brian O’Connor, Virginia – 2004-17 (14 seasons)
    Dave Van Horn, Arkansas – 2002-15 (14 seasons)
    Jack Leggett, Clemson – 1994-2007 (14 seasons)
  • Counting his time as an assistant at Notre Dame under Paul Mainieri, O’Connor went to 19-straight NCAA Regionals, five with the Irish from 1999-03.

Comeback Kids

After an injury-riddled 2018 season the Cavaliers return a number of key pieces to the lineup that missed significant action last year:

  • OF Cameron Simmons – Missed entire 2018 season with shoulder injury, batted .352 in 2017 and was an 2nd Team All-ACC honoree (only one ACC player batted over .352 in 2018, Joey Bart-GT the 2nd overall pick in the 2018 draft)
  • RHP Noah Murdock – Had Tommy John surgery after 2017 season, pitched in five games at end of 2018 season.
  • RHP Evan Sperling – Sunday starter in 2018, season cut short due to injury, had a 1.96 ERA over first four starts
  • RHP Chesdin Harrington – Missed 2018 season due to injury, figures to big part of UVA bullpen in 2019, one of three pitchers with NCAA Regional experience

Stopper of the Year Watch List

  • Virginia reliever Andrew Abbott, a freshman All-American last season was on the initial NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award Watch list, annually giving to the country’s top relief pitcher.
  • Abbott pitched almost exclusively out of the bullpen with 23 relief appearances
  • His 74 strikeouts as a reliever were the third most in the ACC and sixth most in the ACC

Coming in Hot

  • Nate Eikhoff enters the 2018 season having reached base in his last five games. Last season he had the team’s longest hit streak at 16 games and reached base in the first 21 games of the season.
  • He is one of nine UVA players since 2001 to have put together hit streaks of 16 or more.

Preseason Rankings

  • SS Tanner Morris, a draft eligible sophomore, is the No. 49 overall prospect on Baseball America’s Top. 50 College Prospect list.
  • According to D1Baseball.com Nate Eikhoff ranked No. 49 on its top 100 senior list
  • Cam Simmons (#19), Tanner Morris (#24), and Noah Murdock (#27) were included on the D1Baseball’s Top ACC prospects for the 2019 Draft.

The New Guys

  • The Cavaliers added 16 newcomers to its roster for 2013, 13 freshmen and three transfers.
  • According to Perfect Game, Virginia’s 2019 recruiting class was ranked No. 14 in the country with two top 100 players (Mike Vasil – No. 23 & Brandon Neeck – No. 63)
  • Virginia had six players on D1Baseball’s ACC Impact Freshman list, tied for the most with North Carolina in the league.
    Mike Vasil – #6
    Zack Gelof – #19
    Nic Kent – #29
    Zach Messinger – #32
    Drew Hamrock – #41
    Ben Harris – #46

Cactus League Hoos

  • All three games will take place at Salt River Fields, shared spring training home of the Colorado Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks.
  • Virginia has two former players with the Rockies (Mark Reynolds & Tommy Doyle) and three with the Diamondbacks (Artie Lewicki, Jake McCarthy and Pavin Smith).
  • A total of 21 former Cavaliers will be in Arizona for spring training, six in big league camps and 15 in minor league camps.
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The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.
 
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