The Hoos return to the field this weekend hosting for the first time in school history, the Monmouth Hawks. The Cavaliers are getting back on the field after coming from behind twice on Wednesday against the Tribe of William and Mary. Most (including myself) expected a fairly easy victory for UVa but none was to be had. Fortunately, Jared King played like Babe Ruth and first years Nate Irving and Mike Papi came through in the later innings to grasp the victory from the jaws of defeat.
The Hawks travel to Charlottesville with an impressive 3-0 record. They swept their series last weekend in Cary, NC against St. Joes, Wright St., and Youngstown St. More impressive was the way they won each of their games, outscoring their opponents 31-5 on the weekend. UVa is going to have to have a better time on the mound and at the plate than Monmouth's previous opponents if the Hoos are going to assert themselves as an elite team this year.
At the plate, Monmouth has been lead by Sr. OF Owen Stewart. Stewart batted .417 last weekend and had an impressive two runs scored and six RBIs. Overall the Hawks have batted fairly well as a team achieving a combined .330 average. Unfortunately for them they seem to be prone to the strike out. Over their three games of the past weekend they averaged more than six strikeouts a game. On the other hand, they also seem patient enough at the plate to earn their walks, recording 14 last weekend. Branden Kline and company are going to have to be aggresive around the plate while not making too many mistakes. Get this team to chase pitches out of the zone and limit the free 90s should all but assure UVa victory on the weekend.
Not to be outdone by their impressive position playing counterparts, the Monmouth pitchers have been stellar as well. Two of their three starting pitchers gave up a single run over their combined 13 innings pitched while only walking a single batter. Those two confirmed starters (Light and Smith) combined to only give up nine hits but also only struck out 7 (six of those were by Light however). The Hawk's bullpen was solid last weekend as well only giving up six hits in the nine innings the bullpen was responsible for. The Cavaliers are going to have to be very aggressive at the plate. Monmouth doesn't strike out many batters but also doesn't walk to many, meaning they are around the plate at all times, relying on their defense to do the work.
I don't anticipate much of a difference than what we saw last weekend from the Cavaliers. Kline, Silverstein, and Mayberry all turned in fairly impressive outings last weekend. If those three can limit the walks and rely on the UVa defense like they are supposed to, the Cavaliers should be victorious. Even though the defense has let the Cavaliers down in their first four games I don't expect that to happen much more. UVa and Coach Mac pride themselves on being one of the strongest defensive teams in the country and that will get back on track.
First pitch on Friday is at 3 and I will be at the game on Saturday before watching UNC lose in JPJ. If you see me, stop me and say hello! I'll be providing the comedic relief and game updates via twitter (@STLUVaBaseball). As always, Monmouth's pretty much only famous alumni, Miles Austin (I heard) once said to our very own Kevin "K-O" Ogletree "Yo man, Kim K's botaaayyyy don't quit! Oh yea, and, Go Hoos!" I swear he said it.