The real part of the 2014 schedule starts this weekend when UVa travels to Duke. Midweek slip ups and an opening day loss can be put aside now as the Cavaliers focus on turning it up in ACC play to make a run for another Regular Season title, #1 seed in the ACC Tournament, and a National Seed for the final run to Omaha.
Duke entered the season with some postseason aspirations. Baseball America didn't peg them as a Regional Team, but said that they certainly had a shot. Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, the season hasn't gone exactly as planned. They stand at 7-5 so far with losses against UNC Greensboro, Binghamton, St. Louis, West Virginia, and Liberty. Not exactly a strong resume thus far. Luckily they can make up for all their losses with a run in the ACC.
Historically, the Cavaliers have owned the series winning 92 of 146 games; a .630 winning percentage. Since Oak took over, it has been even more one sided winning 25 of the 32 games. Since the 2008 series loss (which was so bad I almost got called upon to hit in a game), UVa is 14-2, and hasn't even lost a game to Duke since 2012 (which means they will likely lose at least one this weekend).
The strength of this Blue Devil team, coming into the year, was supposed to be the pitching staff. According to Aaron Fitt, they had 11 guys toe the rubber and hit 91 or better on the gun during their fall Pro Day. Them are some flame throwers. However, if you know anything about UVa, it's that they live off hard throwers. Give UVa a flame thrower and they'll feast. Throw a poop throwing lefty, and they're liable to maybe score one run; been that way for years now. Their Friday guy does have a 1-0 record in three appearances, but has a 5.23 ERA and has only 10 innings on the year. Saturday and Sunday have better stats. They are a combined 3-3, but both boast a sub 2 ERA, and JR Andrew Istler has an even better 0.63 ERA. His unimpressive 1-2 record is thanks to 6 unearned runs. Key to the Cavaliers this weekend, if Duke's starters are impressive as their ERAs, will be to take advantage of the errors Duke is almost certain to make.
At the plate, Duke has been in the middle of the ACC pack thus far, coming in at 6th in batting average with a .268 average (UVa is 4th at .288). Undoubtedly, they will be lead by RS Junior Chris Marconcini. Marconcini came back with a vengeance last year after missing 2012 thanks to an injury by batting .284 with 8 home runs in 54 games. This year he's been even better batting .367 with 3 home runs already. Limiting Marconcini's impact will be high on the list of goals for the Cavaliers this weekend. He will be important, but Duke touts three other batters batting over .333. Duke has an impressive lineup, but UVa's staff is even more impressive.
Duke's lineup is good and they had high expectations with their staff coming into the year, but there is a reason they are 7-5. Yes, UVa has slipped up a few times this year, but the ACC is a whole new beast and basically the start of a new season. Oak knows how to motivate a team and let them know it's go time. This weekend should be no different. Expect a series sweep and to sit atop the ACC on Sunday afternoon.