Virginia Baseball opens 2020 season with Oklahoma this weekend

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(© Sean Gladwell – stock.adobe.com)

Fourteen straight seasons in the NCAA Tournament, four College World Series appearances, a national championship, then two straight seasons on the outside looking in.

Virginia Baseball looks to get things back on track in 2020 beginning this weekend at Blue Wahoo Stadium.

The ‘Hoos open 2020 with a three-game series against Oklahoma in Pensacola, Fla.

Blue Wahoo Stadium is the home of the Double-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins.

If you can’t make the trip, you might have a hard time tuning in. The series is only available on CST and Yurview, channels on the Cox Communications cable lineup.

Radio broadcasts are available on WINA-1070AM and at VirginiaSports.com.

Game Info/Pitching Matchups

Friday, Feb. 14 – 7 p.m.

  • Oklahoma: RHP Cade Cavalli (5-3, 3.28 ERA, 60.1 IP, 35 BB, 59 K)
  • Virginia RHP Griff McGarry (3-5,4.56 ERA, 53.1 IP, 54 BB, 64 K)

Saturday, Feb. 15 – 5 p.m.

  • Oklahoma: LHP Levi Prater (7-4, 3.26 ERA, 80 IP, 43 BB, 97 K)
  • Virginia: RHP Chesdin Harrington (5-1, 3.49 ERA, 59.1 IP, 16 BB, 64 K)

Sunday, Feb. 16 – Noon

  • Oklahoma: RHP Dane Acker (n/a)
  • Virginia: RHP Mike Vasil (2-6, 5.93 ERA, 57.2 IP, 22 BB, 40 K)

Season Outlook

Virginia was left out of the USA Today preseason poll for the third straight season, and was forecast to finish fifth in the seven-team ACC Coastal in 2020.

The hope for improvement relies on experience on the mound. Virginia returns 380 innings from its pitching staff from 2019. The 2019 group had just 177 innings from the previous season, and it was clear from the results.

The ‘Hoos ranked just 10th in the ACC in team ERA (4.68) in 2019, but the guys who did the heavy lifting are back for 2020.

All three weekend starters – McGarry, Harrington and Vasil – return, as does junior left-handed closer Andrew Abbott (2-3, 3.89 ERA, 3 SV, 44 IP, 25 BB, 59 K).

An intriguing addition to the mix is freshman Nate Savino, who had been projected a first-round MLB draft pick in 2020 before he decided to graduate high school a semester early and enrolled at UVA for the spring semester. There is talk around the program that Savino, a 6’3″ lefty with a mid-90s fastball, could be a weekend rotation guy by the start of ACC play.

The everyday lineup brings back sophomore shortstop Nic Kent (.337/.417/.455 slash, 3 HR, 42 RBI, 17 SB), junior catcher Brendan Rivoli (.320/.386/.466 slash, 5 HR, 42 RBI) and sophomore third baseman Zack Gelof (.313/.377/.396 slash, 2 HR, 32 RBI, 16 SB), but otherwise, a lot of uncertainty.

Only two other returnees got more than 100 at bats in 2019 – senior backup catcher Logan Michaels (.311/.380/.341 slash, 0 HR, 20 RBI) and junior utility infielder Alex Tappen (.228/.303/.339 slash, 3 HR, 23 RBI).

The offense returns just 14 homers from a lineup that produced an ACC-low 28 in 2019, and though the Cavaliers were second in the conference in hitting (.292), the group was just 10th in on-base percentage (.376), 12th in slugging (.401) and ninth in runs per game (6.41).

Story by Chris Graham

         
 

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