Hoos struggle on the weekend in nearly every facet of the game. See that face Coach O'Connor has? You don't want to see that looking at you. Photo courtesy of Ralph Wood.
Disappointing? Yes. Cause for concern? Of course. Reason to set your couch ablaze, tear down the Dav, and call for Coach O'Connor to get fired? No, unless you are a regular poster on a certain UVa message board. If so, go for it homie.
No reason to go in to depth with recaps of every game because I have confidence that you all know what happened. Instead, let's look at some of the shortcomings and places the Hoos excelled in all of the games.
Before we do that however, let's give some credit where credit is due. UNC is a damn good baseball club. They came in to the weekend ranked in the top ten nationally and had one of the top pitching staff in the country. Hell, they have the top ERA in the ACC. On top of their great pitching staff, they are one of the more experienced teams as a whole in the conference as well. Like the Cavaliers, UNC has been a College World Series participant two of the last three years. They had a terribly down year in 2010, but this team is solid year in and year out.
I don't mean to make excuses for this team because I will do my fair share of critiquing in the coming paragraphs, but sometimes the other team is just lasts a bit longer than you do. On Friday, the Cavaliers played a nearly perfect game. The pitching staff struck out 16 batters over ten innings and gave up two runs. The fielders only made a single error and did come through with a run to tie the game up in the 7th and capture the momentum.
Unfortunately, one of those two UNC runs can be blamed on a wild pitch and a walk. Branden Kline knows he can't do that. Those things are unacceptable from any pitcher on the Cavalier staff. And while the Hoos position players played well in the field, they struggled at the plate against UNC's staff. The Cavaliers were able to manufacture a run in the seventh thanks to a UNC walk and an error. When you are only able to manage three hits, you have to take advantage of the other team's errors, but you need to make them hurt a bit more than only one run.
On Saturday, the Heels sat in their dugout and enjoyed watching the Hoos give them the game. Sure, I have seen games like that before(LOOKING AT YOU BRAVES), but they are never fun to watch. When all was said and done, the fielders had turned in an impressive four error performance. Three of those errors came in the first three innings and helped lead to Scott Silverstein getting pulled with only two outs in the fourth inning. Before this weekend, it looked like this UVa team had gotten those terrible error packed games out of their system, but they came to the surface again. The Hoos were able to scratch out seven hits and even captured the lead in the first inning, but when you give up six runs and only three of those were earned, you don't deserve to win.
With the fielding and the hitting failing the boys in the first two games, it was time for the pitching to falter on Sunday. The position players mustered three runs thanks in large part to Brandon Downes going 3-3 and Stephen Bruno hitting his second home run of the year. Three runs is usually not enough to win games in college baseball thanks metal bats, but it will never be enough when you give up the momentum early.
Giving up four runs in the second inning due to five hits and an error frustrates not only your coaches but the hitters and pitchers as well. Knowing your team has to come from behind while down four when you haven't scored four runs in the first two games combined wouldn't help the psyche of the team either. I will certainly give UNC some credit for those four runs because five hits in one inning is impressive, but I imagine Coach Kuhn and Artie Lewicki were not pleased at all with the situations that Artie put himself in with those hitters.
With the three game series sweep, the Heels ended a lot of streaks for the Cavaliers. The five game winning streak and 15 game home winning streak ended on Friday. The home ACC series winning streak that started in March of 2009 ended on Saturday. The most impressive streak that ended came on Sunday as Carolina was the first team since Georgia Tech in 2002 to sweep the Hoos in Charlottesville. All streaks I am sure nobody wanted to see end.
The Hoos are 9-9 in the ACC which puts them at 5th overall in the conference. The schedule doesn't get any easier the rest of the way out, so every out of conference game needs to be a victory and every ACC series needs to be competitive. Luckily, Miami is the only team left on the ACC slate that has a better ACC record.
Monday is a day of rest in the college baseball community and the Hoos return to the field on Tuesday against Richmond at the Dav. Until then, Go Hoos!