Green grass, bright sun, white balls, and fresh chalk on the basepaths. IT'S THE OPENING WEEKEND OF THE 2013 COLLEGE BASEBALL SEASON! As most of you well know, the Hoos are traveling to Greenville to take on the ECU Pirates.
ECU is coming off a strong campaign last season that saw them play in the Chapel Hill Regional. They went 36-24 overall which included coming in sixth in the regular season in Conference USA. This year is a different story because the Pirates return so much talent. They've been regarded as one of the favorites to win the Conference USA this season along with Rice and Southern Miss because of that talent.
The Pirates are going to be lead by their deep pitching staff. Their Friday guy is stud Soph. Jeff Hoffman who went 3-2 with a 3.67 ERA in 19 appearances last year. What was really impressive were the numbers that he put up playing in the Cape Cod league last summer. His numbers from last year don't appear all that overpowering, but Baseball America reports that he can run his fastball up to 95. Their Saturday starter is a junior college transfer that will be making his first start for the Pirates, we'll see how that goes. Their Sunday starter had even better numbers than Hoffman. The Senior RHP Andy Smithmyer had a 1.92 ERA and 5-2 record in 22 appearances while averaging more than a strikeout per inning.
On the field they have two leaders that stand out amongst the rest: Drew Reynolds and Jack Reinheimer who were both named preseason First Team All-Conference USA by the conference coaches. Reinheimer, the junior SS batted .294 last year and was second on the team in stolen bases with 9 (really? 9? that was good for second?). Meanwhile, Reynolds was named a second team All-C USA after last season and was second on the team last year with an impressive .330 batting average. Reynolds is also going to be a late inning force on the mound; he registered ten saves last year and is likely to be in the same role this season.
These two have a pretty storied past having met 41 times in their program's history. Overall, the Cavaliers hold the slight edge winning 21 of the 42 games, but in the O'Connor era, UVa is 5-2 against the Pirates which include two series wins in 2010 and 2011 and a lone victory over ECU in the 2011 Charlottesville Regional.
On paper, I think ECU has the slight edge solely because of all the talent they have returning. On top of the talent, the home field advantage that the Pirates have at Clark-LeClair Stadium gives the ECU even more of an advantage. With that I think ECU's ace wins the Pirates the opener, but Scott Silverstein hearkens back to his high school form and begins a special 5th year season. After that, it comes down to Sunday where I give the slight advantage to the Pirates. Still not a bad start to the season
How do you see this weekend playing out? Leave your prediction in the comments, and of course, GO HOOS!