Year in Review: 2011 Virginia Baseball

Record: 56-12 (22-8), ACC Regular Season Champion, ACC Tournament Champion, Charlottesville Regional Champion, Charlottesville Super-Regional Champion, College World Series participant, Finished 3/4

MVP: Danny Hultzen? Tyler Wilson? Dave Coleman? John Hicks? Steven Proscia? Chris Taylor? (take your pick)

This team had so many MVPs you can't pick just one. UVa counted on just about everyone this year to be so successful. Should we give the MVP to the #2 overall pick, Golden Spikes Award finalist, with the 1.37 ERA and 12-3 record? What about the pitcher with the 11-2 record 1.79 ERA? But the third pitcher had a 10-0 record and 2.24 ERA! What about the catcher that batted .332, lead the team in hits, and tied for the team lead in RBIs and HRs? The SS that was strong all year and had the game winning hit in the decisive super regional game? I personally refuse to give a nod like MVP to an individual player. Can I go all Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls) and split the tiara up and give it to everyone? Good for you Glen Coco....You go Glen Coco!

Overview: Some season soon the Cavaliers might not have "their greatest year ever." Fortunately for us all, that season was not this year. They finished with the most wins in program history and the most in the country. The run to Omaha gave UVa its second appearance at the College Worlds Series and the second time in three years. Davenport Field held its second straight NCAA regional and fifth in program history. With the regional championship, the ‘Hoos advanced to their third straight Super Regional and had one of the greatest wins in college baseball history in the decisive third game against UC-Irvine. While all that NCAA postseason success was great, let us not forget the team also won the ACC regular season and yet another ACC tournament in Durham.

Season Highlight(s): This question is a lot like the MVP question in my mind. Some will say the come from behind victory over UC-Irvine in the Super-Regional where the ‘Hoos were down to their final strike before two hits, a walk, and a laser groundball up the middle scored two runs and gave UVa another College World Series berth. Some could argue it was the ACC tournament in which the Cavaliers came in as the #1 seed and rolled through the tournament without a loss. Others could argue it was sweeping Clemson in SC. Heck, Danny's three innings against USC was one of the greatest pitching performances people have ever seen (3 IP, 1 H, 8 Ks [EIGHT STRIKEOUTS IN NINE OUTS]). I won't pick a single highlight to say it was the best of the year but I am leaning toward another ACC tournament title. The boys went down there and took care of business to win another ring.

Season Lowpoint(s): The only true lowlight in my opinion was the UNC weekend.  The team was swept for the first time since 2008 and lost a series for the first time since April of 2010. The team didn't play their best baseball and UNC played like they had a point to prove. The USC loss in the ‘Hoos final game of the College World Series will be considered a lowpoint for many but in my "glass is half full" viewpoint, the team played exceptional for 12 innings and multiple players stepped up and showed that the program is still going to be in good hands in the coming years. Yea, it sucked, but so is life.

Future Outlook: Let me know if you've heard this before: "the team is going to lose a lot of talent and replacing those guys isn't going to be easy." I heard that in 2009 and this year. What did those teams do? That's right, go to the College World Series. Aaron Fitt and Kendall Rogers have already pegged UVa as NOT one of their "Eight for Omaha." Danny Hultzen will be a hell of a hole to fill. He leaves as one of the most decorated players in UVa history and will not be easily replaced. Waiting in the wings is Branden Kline and Kyle Crockett. Both showed their mettle against USC on the biggest stage. I think the infield will be even stronger next year than it was this year. Werman, King, and Taylor all return coming off very successful year. Stephen Bruno will be re-inserted into the lineup and should he stay healthy I imagine he will be the SS with Taylor moving to 3B.

The outfield and catchers spots are a bit of a mystery to me. Obviously in the outfield Reed Gragnani and Mitchell Shifflett will likely anchor two of the spots (Gragnani-RF and Shifflett-CF) but the other position could be open for the taking between Mark Podlas or an incoming freshman.  At the catchers spot you will likely see a new face. I can't foresee Ryan Levine or Rob Amaro taking over the position and it is my understanding that there is a strong chance of a JUCO transfer catcher. Coach O'Connor has had success in the past going this route with Beau Seabury and Franco Valdez having excellent UVa careers.

I would be dishonest if I said I expected this team to make it to Omaha this year. It was supposed to be somewhat of a rebuilding year with UVa hosting a regional and playing a strong opponent in the Super-Regionals. Luckily, the ‘Hoos have one of the best coaching staffs in American who get it done year in and year out. Next year shouldn't be any different. I would expect the team to have a strong showing all year, host a regional, and compete with a national seed for another chance to go to Omaha.

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