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Cavalier Baseball Stumbles but Finishes Strong

In a weekend where many Cavalier fans jumped ship after a Friday loss to Kentucky, the Cavalier baseball team recovered nicely with dominant wins over VMI and UNC Wilmington.

Derek Fisher paced the Cavalier offense going 5-11 on the weekend including a 2 RBI, 2 R Sunday.
Derek Fisher paced the Cavalier offense going 5-11 on the weekend including a 2 RBI, 2 R Sunday.

There will be bumps in the road. There always are. Nobody (should have) expected this team to go 56-0 in the regular season and it certainly will not be ultimately judged by how well they play in a game in February. So, if you're thinking about rinsing the kool-aid out of your mouth or jumping off the wagon, take a deep breath and remember this is a long season.

Friday was ugly. Not much went right and UVa got taught a lesson by a team that is known for their hot starts. Not much can be done for a team when you only register 3 hits through eight innings while leaving ten men on base. It also does not help matters to give up six runs in the first five innings, but that is baseball. Waddell got roughed up on the mound and the bottom half of the lineup did not produce as they should (or will). The bright spots on Friday were how well this team fought til the end. Even with two outs in the 9th, the boys strung together a couple hits and a walk to score two runs. Also impressive, was the fact that the lineup only had four strikeouts the entire game, and two of those came from free swinging Brandon Downes. There won't be many times where the offense doesn't produce and the pitching gets roughed up like it did on Friday, so this was much more of an aberration than the norm.

On Saturday, Stella got her groove back. I guess all it took was to play an in-state rival to get the juices flowing. I was a bit concerned with Nathan Kirby coming into this year due to his lack of starting time on the mound last year, but if he pitches the rest of the year like he did Saturday, the Cavaliers will be fine whenever he takes the mound. Kirby struck out 7 while not giving up a run on 4 hits and one walk in his six innings. What is more impressive for this team are the two underclassmen (Alec Bettinger and Kevin Doherty) that came in after Kirby and secured the shutout over the final three innings. The offense got back on pace as well scoring 12 runs on 12 hits, including five Cavaliers in the lineup with two hits. One of them was second year backstop Robbie Coman who could be in a dogfight with first year Matt Thaiss to backup Nate Irving. The only concern has to be the ten men left on base, but if you are getting multiple guys on base and scoring runs every inning, you are bound to leave some on the basepaths.

Even though Saturday was fun to watch, Cavalier fans have to be most impressed with the showing they got on Sunday. UNC Wilmington is expected to be the best team in the CAA and to have a 2nd year pitcher no hit them over six innings is something to hang your hat on. Sborz stranded three walks over his six innings before handing the ball off to Daniel Rosenberger, Whit Mayberry, and Nick Howard to nail down the victory. Although the no hit bid was lost in the 7th, limiting a college offense to only two runs will be good enough to win most days. The offense had its most balanced showing on the weekend securing hits from six of the nine starters including Derek Fisher who went 2-4 with a double, 2 RBI, and 2 runs scored.

All in all it was a good weekend for the Cavaliers. No, they did not come out 3-0 as many expected them to, but a kick in the teeth might have been what they needed to show them they were not invincible. I have no doubt that Coach O'Connor let them know of his displeasure on the bus ride back to the hotel. The Hoos open their home schedule this weekend when they welcome William and Mary to the Dav on Tuesday. They took two of three from Army this past weekend, but are coming off one of their most successful years in 2013.