UVa. baseball opens this weekend

The Virginia baseball team starts its 2012 campaign this weekend as it travels to Myrtle Beach, S.C., to compete in the Caravelle Resort Tournament, hosted by Coastal Carolina. UVa is slated to play three games over the weekend.

Live audio of all three contests will be available through Cavaliers Live at VirginiaSports.com. GameTracker links for every Virginia baseball game also will be available throughout the season at VirginiaSports.com.

Virginia opens the tournament at noon Friday with a non-conference game against Boston College in Conway, S.C., at Coastal Carolina’s Watson Stadium. The Cavaliers will match up with the host Chanticleers at 3 p.m. Saturday at Watson Stadium before battling JMU at noon Sunday at BB&T Coastal Field, home of the high-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans.

UVa is ranked in three major preseason publications. The Cavaliers are 17th in the preseason USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll, 23rd in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association rankings and 33rd in the Collegiate Baseball poll.

Coming off a 56-12 record, an ACC Championship and their second College World Series appearance in the last three years, the Cavaliers enter the year with a vastly different look. Thirteen newcomers, including 11 freshmen, line the Virginia roster – 42 percent of the team’s 31-man squad. UVa returns 18 letterwinners from the 2011 team.

UVa’s four primary starting pitchers from 2011 all departed via the MLB Draft, so the Cavaliers will debut a new rotation this weekend. Virginia lost 70 percent of the innings pitched from the 2011 staff (421 of 612 innings).

RHP Branden Kline (Jr., Frederick, Md.), a 2011 First-Team All-America reliever, will earn the starting nod on the mound on opening day. LHP Scott Silverstein (Sr., Olney, Md.) will start Saturday, while RHP Whit Mayberry (Jr., Alexandria, Va.) will make the Sunday start. Kline has earned preseason All-America honors from several outlets this year.

Virginia returns four regular position starters from last season, including three of the four infielders. The right side of the infield returns in tact, with seniors Jared King (Radford, Va.) and Keith Werman (Vienna, Va.) Shortstop Chris Taylor (Jr., Virginia Beach, Va.) also is back after starting all 68 games a year ago. Reed Gragnani (Jr., Richmond, Va.) started 41 games last year in both the infield and outfield and will play several positions again this year.

UVa lost all of its experience at catcher as John Hicks and Kenny Swab each were drafted. Freshmen Nate Irving (Yonkers, N.Y.) and Brandon Downes (South Plainfield, N.J.), junior college transfer Chace Mitchell (Auburn, Ala.) and Werman all could see time behind the plate.

Virginia is 22-5 in opening weekends during the previous eight years of Brian O’Connor tenure as head coach (since 2004). UVa swept through the opening weekend in 2011, defeating UAB, Auburn and Arkansas State at the Auburn Tournament. UVa opened the 2006 and 2007 seasons at Coastal Carolina’s tournament, winning two of three games in each instance.

UVa and Boston College are matching up for the only time this season as the teams will not see each other in conference play for the next two years. Virginia is 16-2 all-time against BC, with all 18 meetings coming since the Eagles entered the ACC in 2006. UVa won two of three games last year in Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Virginia is 3-4 all-time against Coastal Carolina, which is ranked 35th in the preseason Collegiate Baseball poll. The Cavaliers are 1-2 in games played in Conway. UVa scored three runs in the ninth inning last year to defeat Coastal, 8-7, in Charlottesville. Steven Proscia singled in John Barr for the winning run with two outs. King, Gragnani and Colin Harrington each went 2-for-4 in that win.

Virginia is 34-25 in its series with James Madison. The Cavaliers have won the last three meetings and 10 of the last 11. UVa defeated the Dukes, 7-3, last year in Charlottesville. JMU’s last win in the series was a 7-6, 14-inning victory on April 25, 2007, at Davenport Field. The teams have two more scheduled meetings this year – March 6 in Harrisonburg and April 4 in Charlottesville.

Virginia comes home Tuesday to open its home schedule against William and Mary. Game time is 3 p.m.

VIRGINIA CAVALIERS

Probable Starting Rotation (‘11 stats)
Fri. – RHP Branden Kline (4-1, 1.88 ERA)
Sat. – LHP Scott Silverstein (1-0, 3.77 ERA)
Sun. – RHP Whit Mayberry (5-0, 3.00 ERA)

CARAVELLE RESORT TOURNAMENT

Probable Starting Pitchers (‘11 stats)
Fri. – Boston College (RHP Eric Stevens; 2-1, 4.38 ERA)
Sat. – Coastal Carolina (RHP Josh Conway; 8-2, 2.69 ERA)
Sun. – James Madison (Starter TBA)


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