While the rest of the
University's state's nation's WORLD'S eyes will be on Madison Square Garden and the other NCAA basketball games this weekend, the Cavalier baseball team continues ACC play as the Hokies come to stink up Davenport Field.
Coming off of last year, the Hokies had built some serious momentum in their baseball program. They played in the title game of the ACC tournament, hosted their first regional, and had a player taken in the supplemental round of the MLB draft. Fortunately for UVa fans, just about all that momentum has evaporated. Pete Hughes left for Oklahoma (the team that beat them in the NCAA tournament) and all the players that helped them get to that level left. So, yay, they're bad again!
Although the boys did lose the series last year in Blacksburg, the Cavaliers have a significant advantage when it comes to the head to head record. Overall, the Hoos have a 92-79 record against their rivals, with the first game coming in 1900 (UVa won 12-0). Since Oak and Co. have taken over, UVa has been just as dominant, winning 19 of 26 games. Since they did lose three of four to the Hokies last season, it seems to me like it's time for some payback.
This season, the Hokies have built an impressive 12-9 record and currently sit at 5-4 in the conference thanks to a fairly easy schedule thus far (Clemson [got swept], Pitt [swept them], & ND [took 2/3]). They also got beat....at home....by a team from Massachusetts....Massachusetts-Lowell (honestly, are they even D1?). Beating tough competition has not been a strong point thus far for the Turkeys from the southwest, and this weekend shouldn't be any different.
At the plate, VPISU misses Chad Pinder dearly. The infielder lead the Hokies at the plate last year and was named First Team All-ACC at the end of the season. This year, they seem to be lead by R-FR. OF Sage Jenco. The outfielder is batting .364 and is tied for the team lead in runs scored (22). He has also paced the team with 11 stolen bases in 15 attempts. The other player to keep an eye on will be Junior catcher Mark Zagunis. He has been named tot he Johnny Bench watchlist this year, and is truly the captain on the field. He's only batting .281, but does have 20 runs scored and 22 RBI. Keeping Jenco off the basepaths and limiting Zagunis should be a key to success for the Hoos' pitching staff this weekend.
Their starting pitchers leave a lot to be desired. They only have two true weekend starters thus far, and neither have overwhelming numbers. Senior Brad Markley should pitch on Friday, and does have a 3.13 ERA, which isn't terrible, but his 2-3 record means his team has not supported him thus far this season. On Saturday, Junior Sean Keselica will toe the rubber and show off his impressive 2-0 record to match his 6.30 ERA (yea, that's no bueno). Who will start the third game of the series is just as much of a mystery to you and me as it likely is to first year head coach Patrick Mason. Their bullpen does seem to have one go to guy, should they need a stop or hold. Junior lefty Sean Kennedy has appeared in twelve games thus far and has put together an impressive 1.84 ERA in 14.2 innings.
Overall, the Hokies are a young team that is just finding its way. They have some talent, but that talent just isn't up tot he high class of the ACC yet. The Cavalier pitching has been dominant all season and I see no reason for that to change this weekend. The hitting came alive last weekend in Miami, but they just couldn't string hits together to score runs. I think this weekend is when that happens. Hoos sweep (as many games as they get in) in convincing fashion.