With their nine game homestand opening up tonight, the Hoos welcome intrastate rival JMU to Davenport field. This will be the third meeting between the two teams on the season. The Cavaliers bombarded the Dukes in early March in Harrisonburg 14-6 and the two teams played to a 4-4 tie in Myrtle Beach to begin the season.
While the Cavaliers have been playing significantly better baseball since that opening weekend in Myrtle Beach, JMU has struggled to say the least. Since their March 6th meeting, JMU has gone 1-16 with their only win coming two weeks ago at Georgia State. Widely regarded as the favorite to win the CAA, the Dukes have underachieved like nobody's business.
JMU sends Junior RHP Nick Slogik to the mound to face the Cavaliers (poor guy). Slogik has struggled so far this year in amounting a 9.77 ERA, an 0-3 record, and more hits and runs than innings pitched this year. He has also struggled with his control walking 8 batters in only 15.2 innings. The rest of the pitching staff hasn't faired much better this year combining for a 7.00 ERA and giving up more than a hit an inning. Their opponent's batting average so far this season has been .311, which is just under UVa's ACC leading .314 average.
Hoos will counter with 2nd year LHP Kyle Crockett. This will be Crockett's first start of his career at UVa and could be the beginning of a change in his situation. The news that Whit Mayberry had to have Tommy John surgery on Tuesday rocked the UVa program and means a few guys will have new roles on the staff. I imagine Crockett will continue to pitch the majority of his innings on the weekend but with the JMU lineup having a large amount of lefties in their lineup, it could just be a spot start.
JMU's hitters have faired significantly better than their pitching counterparts. A .279 team average means they are at least competent with the bat and record their fair share of hits. Contrary to most JMU teams (could be their new field), this team does not rely heavily on the longball. They only have seven home runs and ten triples on the season. Their small ball approach is similar to what most UVa fans are accustomed to seeing from the Orange and Blue. JMU also likes to put pressure on the defense and catchers to make plays. They have 65 stolen base attempts so far but only 45 of those have been successful.
Tonight's game is throwback night which means cheap soda, popcorn, and those sweet throwback uniforms! By far my favorite in the UVa arsenal (probably just the fact that I have a softspot for pullover unis).
As always, I will do my best to provide updates and snark on twitter (@STLUVaBaseball). Until then, enjoy the Masters' par 3 challenge and count down the hours til first pitch. Of course, GO HOOS!