The Wahoos are pissed.
After a season in which they went 42-14, finished second in the Coastal Division of the ACC, won 82% of their games at home, and batted .324 as a team, the Cavaliers were denied the opportunity to host a Regional in favor of a Clemson team that won fewer games and lost to UVA in the ACC Tournament. So now, this uber talented offensive team is headed to funky town, where they are part of a trio of 40 win teams vying for a chance to advance to the Supers.
UVA is led by one of the best players in the country, and outfielder projected to be picked in the very early stages of the first round of the MLB Draft. Junior Adam Haseley sports a .399 batting average to go along with 14 home runs, 15 doubles, and 54 RBI. He is an absolute monster in the middle of the order and has plenty of help; seven regulars hit .320 or above. And, if that weren’t enough, he is 7-1 as a left handed pitcher with a 3.58 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 64.1 innings of work. Haseley has walked a team-leading 41 times while striking out just 20, and has stolen 10 bases in 14 attempts.
Joining Haseley in the mashing the ball all over the park category are Cameron Simmons (.358/.448/.676) who has hit 9 home runs, 14 triples, and knocked in 57 runs. He does have more Ks (35) than walks (22), one of only three regulars on the team that can say that. Pavin Smith leads the team in RBIs and is second in home runs with 72 and 12 respectively, and is one of seven regulars batting .320 or above. The Hoos have 60 long balls as a team, score just a shade under eight runs per game, have 176 extra base hits, and are 75-89 in steal attempts. They have struck out just 212 times; for comparison’s sake, the Frogs have done so 461 times). In fact, their strikeout leader, Jake McCarthy with 35, would have the second lowest mark were he a Frog.
This is a truly elite offensive team, one who led the ACC in batting average, hits, and on base percentage. They also had the lowest strikeout rate in the conference by a triple digit mark. They are first in sacrifice flies and second in sacrifice bunts, so it appears we will get Texas’ed once again. While both TCU and DBU have elite level pitching (though the Frogs’ hasn’t been consistent, the track record in the postseason of Brian Howard, Mitchell Traver, and Jared Janczak speaks for itself), this lineup is going to be a beating to get through for two wins.
The Hoos are an average defensive team, with a .974 fielding percentage and 54 errors committed - led by second baseman Ernie Clement’s 15. Third baseman Andy Weber is second with seven, but no other player has more than three after the infield duo. They have allowed 29 steals in 41 attempts and have turned 40 double plays.
The Cavs played without two of their best pitchers in the ACC Tournament, as Haseley missed several starts at the end of the year due to a bone bruise and Noah Murdock (3-1, 3.32 ERA) experienced some stiffness. Both should return for the Regional, though I would expect Derek Casey (4-2, 3.78 ERA) or Daniel Lynch (7-4, .494 ERA) to start game one against DBU, saving the two big arms for an expected two game set with TCU. The Cavs are certainly good enough to get out of the Regional on the strength of their starting pitching, and should have plenty of run support, unless their opponents throw the games of their lives.
Alec Bettinger is an excellent reliever by any account, 8-0 in 19 appearances out of the pen with a 2.54 ERA, with 66 strikeouts in 56.2 innings. He is joined by Tommy Doyle, another outstanding arm that sports a 1.93 ERA in 22 appearances, striking out 36 in 32.8 innings on his way to a 13 save season. But, after that, things get a little dicey. Five different relievers have double-digit appearances, with mixed results. If they get only the 5.5 innings the starters have averaged this season in their first three games, a fourth could stretch the pen a little thin. Knocking the big guns out early and getting deep into the relief unit is a recipe to take down the Hoos.
Virginia is the most talented offensive team in the Regional, and will certainly be playing with a chip on their shoulder. The big bats can carry them far this weekend, and they are going to be a tough out across the board. Expect them and the Frogs to meet with a shot for the Supers on the line.