By now I am sure most of you know the boys lost to Mississippi St last week. It was not a well played series by the Cavaliers and quite frankly, they did not deserve to win. However, as much as UVa did not play well, Miss St. played like the Braves and seemingly could not be beaten. Such is life.
All that said, the season that this Cavalier baseball team had was surprising to say the least. I won't go back and delete my season preview I put out in February, so if you'd like to know just how great at predicting baseball I am, you can go back and read it. I did not expect much from this team. I felt that they had not been that great of team last year and they were even younger this season. I am proud to say that I was terribly wrong.
I think a lot of credit is due to the seniors (and 5th years) that showed tremendous leadership and lead the young group. Jared King and Scott Silverstein had their best years at UVa. Silverstein grew into the Saturday starter's role and put up a great 10-2 record with a 3.12 ERA while King batted .288, played in 59 of 62 games, and lead the team in ABs. Not to be outdone, Reed Gragnani, Whit Mayberry, Colin Harrington, and Rob Amaro lead as well. Gragnani had his first season completely healthy playing in 61 of 62 games, and striking out only 10 times all season. Whit suffered a season ending injury last season that carried over into 2013. Fortunately he was able to salvage a part of his season and helped stabilize the pitching rotation late in the year when other injuries had major impacts. Unfortunately for Amaro and Harrington, they were hurt for much of their 4th years with the program. Harrington is pursuing medical school, but he does have a year of eligibility left. I am not sure if he will be back, but I am sure if he can balance everything Coach O'Connor would welcome him back. Amaro has (I think) two years left and will be pursuing a graduate degree back home at Temple while playing baseball for the Owls. Good luck to all six in their endeavors,I am sure it is not the last we have heard from them.
We will also have likely seen the last time Kyle Crockett has worn a Cavalier uniform, as the lefty closer was drafted in the fourth round by the Indians. There is speculation that he could be back for his fourth year, but I would not bet on that. Kyle has had an amazing career and was the most dependable pitcher of the season. His twelve saves this season tie him with Justin Thompson for fifth most saves in a season in program history. Even though he won't be wearing a UVa uniform anymore, you could be seeing Kyle in a Cleveland uniform pretty soon.
Even though the older guys had great seasons, the true story was how well the youth played all season. Twenty five underclassmen helped lead this team to 50 wins, just the third time the program has ever reached the mark. Brandon Waddell, Nathan Kirby, and Josh Sborz were heavily relied upon and should only get better next year. The position players got even more production out of the underclassmen. Only two of the ten starting position players won't be back next year, and I expect Papi, Downes, Fisher, and McCarthy to be even more powerful next year.
In all, it was an amazing season for this young team. The experience they gained through the NCAA tournament and the Super Regional cannot be overstated. They achieved 50 wins for just the third time in program history, made the program's tenth straight NCAA tournamant, hosted a Super Regional for the third time ever, hit the third most triples and fourth most doubles in program history, and sixth most strikeouts in program history. Not to mention being in the top ten of the country in OBP, Slugging, OPS, batting average, runs, hits doubles, triples, home runs, RBI, walks, and shutouts.
Like I said earlier, the season certainly did not end the way most wanted it to, but the future certainly is bright for this team and program. Expect big things from the Hoos in 2014 and I am calling a trip to Omaha right now.