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Weekend Preview: East Carolina

The Cavaliers welcome a somewhat familiar foe to the Dav this weekend when they play host to the East Carolina Pirates (3-1).

The Cavaliers host ECU this weekend in the Dav's home opener.
The Cavaliers host ECU this weekend in the Dav's home opener.

To say the boys had a strong midweek game would be an understatement. An offensive outburst of 17 runs combined with the pitching holding William and Mary to only two runs means the boys had no problem. This weekend, they'll face a more formidable opponent when East Carolina comes to town.

ECU is no stranger to the Cavaliers having played them nine times since 2010 amassing a 7-2 record against the Pirates. Last year, UVa opened the season in Greenville and won both games that were played. Kenny Towns is especially looking forward to this weekend after he hit two grand slams last year in the opening day game.

This year, ECU is projected to have another strong team and challenge Rice in Conference USA. Baseball America has tabbed the Pirates as a team to make the NCAA tournament thanks in large part to their strong pitching staff. Lead in large part by Friday night starter, Junior RH, Jeff Hoffman. Although he only went 6-7 last season, Hoffman comes into this season regarded as one of the top prospects in Conference USA and the nation. For all that hype, last week against JMU Hoffman wasn't all that dominant giving up four runs in 6.2 innings. Sun. starter David Lucroy is considered another top prospect out of the conference, but struggled mightily against JMU giving up four runs on six hits in just two innings. ECU is going to have to tighten up those numbers or have a monster offensive series if they want to win this weekend.

ECU's offense might just be up to that challenge. So far, they have seven players batting above .300 and have been lead by Soph. catcher, Travis Watkins who will enter the weekend with a .385 batting average and five RBI. As a team the Pirates are averaging just over six strikeouts a game so this weekend could be a good opportunity for the Cavalier pitching staff to get their numbers up even higher than they already are. When the Pirates do get on base, they tend to put the runners in motion. So far this year they've been successful in six of their nine stolen base opportunities. Freshman 3b Zach Houchins leads the Pirates in stolen bases with three in three attempts, so look for him to move should he get on base.

I think last Friday was somewhat of a wake up call for the Cavalier baseball team. Playing each other all fall and early spring is one thing, but when someone else is in the other dugout is a different matter. Credit to Kentucky who came out and punched the Hoos in the face and didn't back down. Luckily for UVa fans, it was the first game of the season and if the three other games are an indication of things to come, the preseason predictions might not be that far off.

Unfortunately, I think this weekend will be somewhat similar. ECU's Hoffman is a dominant pitcher, who might have just had a bad outing last week. I think he comes out on Friday and rises to the occasion, getting to show himself against such a highly regarded team. The Cavaliers take care of business the next two days and take the series, 2-1. Would it be great to go 3-0? Sure, but ECU will be an NCAA tournament team at the end of the year, so dropping one game isn't the end of the world.

First pitch on Friday is at 3 pm and Saturday and Sunday are set for 1. Make sure to follow me on twitter @STLUVaBaseball for all the scoring updates (and other commentary).