The Cavaliers will take their #1/3 ranking and 8 game winning streak to Pittsburgh this weekend to take on Pitt as an ACC opponent for the first time.
Not much was expected of the Panthers entering the 2014 spring and their first ACC baseball season. They haven't been to the NCAA tournament since 1995, and although they won a school high 42 games last year, they still did not make the tournament. That was in the Big East, this is big boy baseball now.
Fortunately for Pitt fans, they haven't taken the move nearly as bad as some of their former Big East brethren. After starting off the season 1-5 thanks to being swept by VPISU and losing two of three to UNC, they have clawed back to a respectable 7-5 record in the conference which places them in a tie for 3rd with Duke (Pitt has the tiebreaker due to a sweep of the Blue Devils in March). However, since sweeping Georgia Tech last weekend in Pittsburgh, they've lost a home game to WVU and a road game to Youngstown State.
More good news for the Panther fans is that they play exceptionally well at home. Entering this week they were undefeated at home. That loss to the Mountaineers is the only blemish on that record, so UVa fans should not be expecting the Panthers to roll over.
The two teams have no real history against one another. The last matchup was a Cavalier victory in Charlottesville back when Ralph Sampson was roaming the paint. The two programs have squared off four more times between 1940 and 1966, and saw the Hoos come away victorious in four of the five games.
At the plate the Panthers aren't overwhelming, but aren't terrible either. They feature a .273 team average which, like most of their statistical rankings, places them at 6th in the Conference. The only thing they are exceptionally good at is striking out. They K nearly 8 times a game and have struck out 216 times on the season (UVa only has 123). The Hoos will have to limit JR OF Boo Vazquez (real name apparently) who leads Pitt in RBI and HR, as well has SR OF Stephen Vranka who leads the team in runs scored and slugging. But I don't see them being too big of a problem given the whole roster's propensity to strike out.
The Cavalier offense has busted out of it's early season slump with four straight games of 7 or more runs scored, and I don't see that streak stopping this weekend. Pitt ranks dead last in the ACC in opponent's batting average, allowing the opposition to bat .293 on the season! That's a better batting average than all but one ACC team! They also rank 2nd to last (LOLz Hokies) in ERA at 4.42 (UVa is more than 2 runs better at 2.11).
Overall, this matchup looks like a dream come true for the Hoos. Pitt has a terrible pitching staff and a middle of the road lineup that likes to strike out. If this game was played on paper, the Cavaliers would take it easily. Unfortunately, it isn't, and Pitt has played well at home, even in ACC play. Given that, I still see the Hoos sweeping the weekend and running their winning streak to 11. The boys will need these wins because the schedule gets significantly tougher in the coming weeks hosting Clemson and UNC before traveling to Tallahassee for a series the whole country will be watching.