While the Virginia Men’s Basketball team continues to enjoy the fruits of their labour and to delight fans with what is now a 26-1 season, Virginia Baseball, currently ranked #1 by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, is humming along at 7-0.
Recording series sweeps against East Carolina University and Marist as well as a win in a single game against La Salle, UVA Baseball has gotten off to a smooth start with road games. To the disappointment of local fans, snowy Charlottesville weather has repeatedly pushed would-be opening home games to sunny South Carolina. This weekend, Virginia will play three games in Myrtle Beach before returning for the now-first home game on Tuesday, March 3 against VMI. Games against VCU and George Washington have been postponed for the snow.
So how’s the team looking so far? Joe McCarthy is noticeably absent from the lineup following a back surgery in January that will keep him out until at least late April. In his place in RF is first year Adam Haseley. John La Prise was injured in the preseason and has played only in the first game this season. First year Charlie Cody and fourth year Thomas Woodruff have alternated as his replacements in LF.
The team has had notable firsts in just these last two weeks. Matt Thaiss, Pavin Smith, Daniel Pinero, and Ernie Clement all hit their first career home runs in the last seven games. An 18-inning game against Marist set a new record for the longest game in our program’s history by innings. In that game, reliever LHP Kevin Doherty recorded his longest career outing at 5 innings pitched. Josh Sborz had his debut as a closer, earning his first save against ECU. In replacing La Prise, Woodruff had his first career start in the field at ECU.
We have also seen some impressive defensive fieldwork from first years Justin Novak (second base) and Pavin Smith (first base), as well as a heroic center field catch by first year Ernie Clement late in the marathon against Marist. Shortstop Daniel Pinero and third baseman Kenny Towns have, as usual, defended the diamond with prowess. Overall, their defense has been solid, and preseason work has paid handsomely with results of great teamwork and seamless integration of the first years, both on defense and in hitting.
First years Smith, Clement, Cody, and Haseley have been getting good at-bats. In the last seven games, Clement leads the team in number of hits, with 13. Haseley is tied with second year Thaiss for first place in RBIs with 6. First year Christian Lowry hit the walk-off single in the 18th inning against Marist. Second years Thaiss and Pinero and fourth year Towns have been prolific as well; each player has scored seven times over the course of the last seven games.
First year pitchers who saw action last week include Bennett Sousa and Derek Casey. Nathan Kirby, Connor Jones, and Brandon Waddell have each started twice, and Alec Bettinger has both worked in relief for Kirby and started. Jones and Kirby are tied for strikeout leader at 14 strikeouts each. Robbie Coman and Matt Thaiss have been behind the plate.
For game video highlights, please see: http://virginiasportstv.com/baseball
By Mary W. Hedges, Staff Writer