The Super Regional last year certainly didn't go as we all had hoped for. Nobody expected the boys to lose two straight to a Mississippi State team that was streaking at the right time, but that's the way it goes. Fortunately for us, the Cavaliers are back, and appear that they might be better than they have ever been before.
The pitching is there. Young talent in Connor Jones and Jack Roberts can hold down the weekdays for the time being and get some experience under their belts. Second years Brandon Waddell, Nathan Kirby, and Josh Sborz will toe the rubber on the weekends and will look to build on the success that they all had last year. But I think the best part of this team will actually be the bullpen. If it holds up like it is set up now, all the experience will be in the pen waiting to shut down ball games. Nick Howard, Whit Mayberry, Austin Young, and maybe even Artie Lewicki after he has fully rehabbed could be the most experienced bullpen Coach O'Connor has ever had. If any of those young guns get roughed up early, Oak won't have to worry about handing the ball over to the bullpen, and that is beautiful.
It is easy to look to next year for the pitchers and think how dominant they could be in 2015, but for the position players, that year is now. The lineup will likely feature seven third years who could be drafted in the top six or seven rounds, so enjoy it while it lasts. If they play up to their potential there is no reason why they couldn't have five or six First Team All-ACC members. I doubt any of them will win POTY because Carlos Rodon still exists, but I expect Derek Fisher, Brandon Downes, Mike Papi, and Joe McCarthy to give him a serious run for his money. As a whole, there is no reason to think this offense could average 8 runs a game (last year's avg - 7.88). With that many runs, I could pitch and they would still win significantly more wins than losses.
Naturally, the ACC will be one of the toughest conferences in America, as it always is. UNC, FSU, NC St, and Clemson will all be teams that make some noise coming into conference play and will challenge the Cavaliers. There is good reason for this team to be tabbed by the coaches as the favorite to win the conference this year, and they tend to know a thing or two about the conference.
As for how I think things will go? I am drinking the Kool-Aid by the gallon and have pulled the bandwagon out onto the highway. I am expecting massive things from this UVa team. A mere trip to Omaha will not satisfy my thirst this year. It was great in '09, and I was thrilled when they made a return trip in '11, but this team seems to be better than both of those teams. Anything less than an appearance in the Championship Series at the end of June will be disappointing. I know that is something I probably shouldn't be writing because it should be more about taking care of business during the regular season, but excitement has got the best of me.
Since the season starts on Friday, we'll be doing all sorts of previews this week. Check back each day for a new preview
Tuesday: Schedule Preview
Wednesday: Pitchers Preview
Thursday: Position Players Preview
Friday: Season Outlook & Weekend Preview