A lot has changed since the last time the Cavalier baseball team took the field and improved their record to 12-0. The basketball team decided it didn't really want to play in the NCAA tournament because in the NIT you get to (probably) host a few games, and they love playing at JPJ, Mother Nature dumped (judging by my twitter and facebook feeds) about eight feet of snow on Charlottesville, and the national college baseball media finally recognized the fact that the team was undefeated by putting them in the top 25 of all the polls!
It's time for a little big boy baseball now as the ACC schedule kicks off this weekend with Maryland. Although they have made some big strides forward in the past couple years, Coach O'Connor has never had any trouble dispensing the Terrapins amassing a 25-2 record since coming to UVa. I don't expect this year to be too different even though the Terps do have a fairly impressive record.
Entering the weekend Maryland has put together a quality 9-3 record. To their credit, those three losses came at the hands of LSU the opening weekend in Baton Rouge; a place where not many teams would win. HOWEVA, those nine wins that they have have come at the expense of less than stellar competition (four wins against Oakland and Princeton and a win against JMU). So, this weekend we'll see if Maryland can win a game against a good team.
The Terps are going to be lead at the plate by Redshirt Soph. Charlie White who is batting .432 on the season. Even though he doesn't have many extra base hits (four doubles), he is a force on the basepaths with fifteen stolen bases in eighteen attempts. White also doesn't strike out too often, having only struck out twice on the season, the Cavalier infield is going to have to be on their toes whenever White is in the batter's box.
The rest of the offense is a little different than previous years. Usually Maryland's home runs totals are inflated due to the crackerjack box they play in, but this year they look to be hitting more doubles than usual, which could be a change in philosophy with the new coaching staff or just a result of the early season and cold weather. They do have a .297 batting average and have even limited their strikeouts. Cavalier pitching staffs have a history of taking those numbers and standing them on their heads, so who really knows.
Their pitching staff is anchored by a pair of upper classmen who have pitched quite well thus far. Sr. Jimmy Reed and Jr. Brady Kirkpatrick are both 2-1 and have ERAs under two. Reed is averaging more than a strikeout per inning, but is also giving up more than a hit per inning pitched as well. Kirkpatrick, on the other hand, isn't striking out nearly as many (7), but also has given up a fraction of the hits that Reed has (7 hits in 18 IP). The pitching staff as a whole has just over a 3.00 ERA and looks to rely heavily on the strikeout which is probably a product of their easy schedule so far. Luckily, the UVa baseball program has always prided themselves on limiting the the strikeout.
Overall, I think the matchup clearly favors the Cavaliers. I think the Hoos hitters are a bit more talented and the pitchers a little bit better. I expect Saturday's doubleheader to be split and the Hoos to win the series on Sunday as Maryland relies on a less impressive/experienced starter than their other two.
A two and one start isn't a bad start to the ACC schedule. The Cavaliers are going to need to win every series they can to prove to the national skeptics (including myself) that they're not too young and this 12-0 start isn't just a product of a weak schedule.