Thank God UVa is a baseball and tennis school, amiright? (Ok, that's probably my last lax joke. Probably) It's been a while since we've seen this Cavalier baseball team thanks to final exams. Hopefully not much has changed from the dominating season the team has had up until now. Yes, they did have a stumble in their last series played at Blacksburg two weeks ago, but the boys got back to business in the VCU game (the last game before the exam break) and soundly defeated the Rams 11-3. Now it's time to start pushing towards the ACC Tournament and beyond.
The Hoos' season thus far looks a little like this: 39-8 record overall, 17-7 in the ACC, #3 RPI in the country, #7 in Baseball America's rankings, #6 in Perfect Game's rankings, and expected to wrap up a national seed for the NCAA tournament.
Duke will come to Charlottesville after struggling through much of their season. The Blue Devils are 25-23 overall and luckily they played Maryland in their last ACC series, otherwise they might have been 0-9 in their last three ACC serieses. Instead, they're 1-8! They're 9-15 in the ACC which puts them at 10th overall (in a virtual tie with Maryland) and 6th in the stacked ACC Coastal (there are only 6 teams in the division).
Historically, Duke is one of the few ACC teams that the Cavaliers have a winning record against. Not surprisingly, since Coach O'Connor took over the Hoos have an even more impressive record against the Blue Devils (22-7). Since 2008, it has been even more of a lopsided affair with UVa winning 11 of the 13 matchups with Duke. This year shouldn't be much different.
Duke's pitching is fairly middle of the pack with a 4.04 staff ERA. On the other hand, their three starters that they will run to the mound have fairly impressive numbers. Trent Stewart and Michael Matuella, Duke's Friday and Saturday starters, both have an ERA under 3, but have a combined 8-6 record. What does that say? It means the Blue Devils' bullpen is suspect at best. Only one pitcher out of the pen with more than ten appearances has an ERA under 3, which should tell you all that you need to know. If the Hoos can get to the starters, jump out to a lead, and avoid Duke's rather dominant closer in Andrew Istler, the games should be easily won.
As much as their pitching is keeping them in games, the batters don't seem to be pulling their weight. Their .272 team batting average is tenth in the ACC. The batters are a bit of a statistical anomaly as well because they have five starters batting over .300. I don't know if their coach loves to double-switch or what, but I guess he loves to play everyone. Someone should tell him that there aren't little league rules in play in college, you don't have to play everyone. They're lead in large part by Soph. infielder Andy Perez who leads the team with a .322 average, 55 hits, 5 triples, and 16 stolen bases. Keep Perez off the basepaths and it appears Duke's offense falls apart.
Some might be a bit skeptical after the Cavaliers stumbled against the Hokies two weeks ago, but Coach O'Connor likes to have a short memory. You can't ride too high off the wins and you can't ride too low off the losses. This should be readily apparent this weekend as I expect the Hoos to show the country that their top ten ranking is much deserved. Hoos take the series and likely sweep the Blue Devils out of Charlottesville.