We've detailed how dominant the pitchers are going to be as well as the holes the position players are going to have to fill, but now it's time to put the pedal to the metal and set sights on Omaha. The 2015 baseball season is finally here!
To start the season, the Hoos travel a little South to take on East Carolina. Last season, the Pirates finished the year at 33-26 and lost to Southern Miss in the Conference USA tournament, missing the NCAA tournament for the third straight year (ECU was in the Charlottesville Regional in 2011).
This season will be a fresh start for the Pirates on multiple levels. Not only are they beginning a new season, but they are doing so in a new Conference, and featuring a new head coach. After playing in Conference USA since the 2002 year, ECU makes the jump to the American Athletic Conference, where they'll have to take on the likes of Houston and Central Florida. Their new head coach will be former ECU catcher Cliff Godwin, who has an impressive coaching background having been at Ole Miss, UCF, LSU, Notre Dame, and Vanderbilt in the last ten years.
Similar to UVa, the Pirates have to replace some of their top hitters from last season. To do so, they'll look to Junior 1B Luke Lowery, as well as newcome JUCO transfer OFs Jimmy Boyd and Jeff Nelson. One of the Pirates top Athletes, who roams the OF and is their Friday ace, Reid Love, is out for three weeks, so the Hoos are fortunate to miss him.
As for pitching the Pirates have announced they'll start two Left-handed Sophomores in Evan Kruzynski and Jacob Wolfe. The two combined for just 13 appearances last season with no games started, so the book isn't very full. Not only will the Pirates turn to two unproven starters, but the two will be living in the shadow of former great Jeff Hoffman, who was drafted as the 9th overall pick last year (UVa beat Hoffman 3-2 in the series opener last season).
To remember some good old days, it was just two years ago when the Hoos traveled to Greenville to open the season. Now 4th year Kenny Towns kicked off that 2012 campaign by smoking two grand slams leading UVa to a 14-4 victory. Last season, UVa swept the series and held the Pirates to just 4 runs the entire weekend.
Since there are so many unknowns about ECU, it's tough to know what to expect from them. As noted, they're replacing a lot, working with a new coach, and entering a new conference. Even though the Hoos are somewhat unproven in the field and at the plate, I think the pitching can carry them through the weekend. I say the Hoos take at least two of three, and I wouldn't be surprised with a series sweep.
As always, we'll do our best to recap the games and provide "expert" analysis on Twitter! Go Hoos!
East Carolina bound. Big day tomorrow. #GoHoos— Kenny Towns (@Ktowns9) February 12, 2015