After what some would describe as a "brutal weekend" to begin the year in Myrtle Beach and a midweek scare against William and Mary, the UVa baseball team settled down and played the game most UVa fans expect them to play. Monmouth traveled to Charlottesville riding high off a sweep of their opening round weekend and might have thought they stood a decent chance at Davenport Field against the struggling Hoos.
Fortunately for UVa fans, the bats came alive, the defense played well, and the pitching was stellar. Sound familiar? This is what we have all come to know and love at Davenport Field after Coach O'Connor and company have built up such high expectations.
On Friday, things looked like the Hoos would have another bumpy weekend after surrendering two runs in the first inning. Facing such a deficit the Hoos rallied to score sixteen unanswered runs which included seven off Monmouth's touted pitcher Pat Light. Branden Kline gave UVa a great outing going 6.1 innings and only surrendering three runs on six hits. Kline struck out five but also walked three which I am sure Coach Kuhn was not pleased about. First year RHP Barrett O'Neill got his first taste of UVa playing time by closing out the final 2.2 innings and only allowing a single run. An impressive outing for the young guy. At the plate four Cavaliers registered multi-hit games including first year Derek Fisher who went 4-4 with three RBIs and three runs scored. All in all, the Hoos strung out 18 runs on 18 hits in the 18-4 blowout.
Saturday I got my first glimpse of the "renovated" Davenport Field and I can tell you that myself and the other baseball alumni I got to see this weekend were very impressed. The orange trim, the new banners, and the new signs really show that the UVa program has arrived by showing off the accomplishments. On the field, the product was just as good. Scott Silverstein gave UVa another quality start by only allowing one run on three hits in the seven innings he toed the rubber. Scott is having a great year so far with a 1.50 ERA and striking out twelve in as many innings. Fourth year Shane Halley and second year Austin Young each ate an inning for the pitching staff after Silverstein was removed. First year Brandon Cogswell showed why he belonged at the plate going 2-3 with two runs scored. Reed Gragnani was the most helpful knocking in three RBIs on his lone hit of the afternoon. The final score read 7-1 but UVa took the lead early and never looked back.
Much like Friday, Sunday saw the Cavalier bats explode in huge innings. Heading in to the 4th tied up 0-0 the Hoos took advantage of Monmouth's pitching and scored two in the fifth, seven in the sixth, and three more in the seventh to assure the victory. Nearly everyone got hits but first year Brandon Downes had two doubles and a triple to go with his four RBIs, Chris Taylor deposited his second home run of the year in to Hoo Zone, and Reed Gragnani was untouchable with a perfect 4-4 day at the plate. On the mound the Hoos were just as good. Whit Mayberry gave another stellar outing with six innings pitched, three strike outs, no walks, and didn't surrender a run. Ashooh, Abel, Effertz, and Howard combined to close out the Hawks 13-1 and assure the Cavalier sweep.
I think there are two things that can be taken away from this weekend. The first is that the Cavaliers did not overlook their opponent or "play down" to the other team's level. There seemed to be a bit of that the first year when the Hoos only took care of business against host Coastal Carolina. The other thing I was pleased with was the play of the new players. While most expect Chris Taylor, Reed Gragnani, and Stephen Bruno to have big years, if the Hoos are going to have a big year, Downes, Papi, and Fisher are going to have to assert themselves and show why they were so highly recruited.
To wrap it all up, luckily the baseball team did not have an umpire that was calling ticky-tack fouls or a pitcher that flopped around on the mound that got their best team in foul trouble. DAMN YOU CAROLINA BASKETBALL AND YOUR TERRIBLE FANS AND TERRIBLE REFS AND I HATE YOU (Ok, I am mildly better now). To really wrap it up, the Hoos took care of business and showed why they are one of the top programs in the country. They won't score as many runs every weekend as they did this past weekend but I think it only gets better from here. The boys have Monday off before returning to the field Tuesday as they host Liberty in a mid-week tilt. As always, follow me on twitter (@STLUVaBaseball) if you want actual insight in to baseball and not just attempts at funny quips about Top Chef or the Bachelor (looking at you @TheUVAFool) and of course, Go Hoos!