It is no secret that UVa is playing some of their best baseball of the season heading into this weekend's ACC showdown with NC State. The Hoos are winners of five of their last six and six of their last nine, and two of those losses came by two runs or less.
Unfortunately, those wins came at a price as both Nathan Kirby and Derek Casey appear to be sidelined with significant injuries that could keep both of them out the rest of the season. Add those two in with third year John La Prise, who was supposed to have a starting role for the Cavaliers, and you've got the makings of a pretty disastrous year. For what this young, and mostly inexperienced, team has been able to accomplish, it has been pretty successful.
But this weekend their eyes shift to Raleigh where they will take on NC State.
The Wolfpack enter with a similar record to the Cavaliers having won 21 games overall, but only 9 in conference play. Unlike the Hoos, the Pack have struggled over the last three weeks having only won three of their last eleven and dropping their last three ACC series to FSU, UNC, and Notre Dame.
Historically, NC State has been very successful against UVa teams. And contrary to other ACC teams, Coach O'Connor has only righted the ship a little bit. The Wolfpack are one of just two ACC teams (not counting Louisville) that Coach O'Connor has a losing record against. Even more surprising is the fact that no UVa baseball team has ever won a three game series in Raleigh. Elliot Avent is a sorcerer.
Even though their record might not reflect it, the Wolfpack's team statistics are pretty impressive. They are batting .283 and slugging .424 as a team, which are both third best in the conference. Their pitching has been nearly as good compiling a 3.18 ERA, fourth best in the conference, but even more impressive is the .214 batting average against, which trails only Louisville's .201.
For UVa, the loss of Nathan Kirby will loom large. The projected first round pick will be replaced on Friday by Connor Jones, who in turn will be replaced by Brandon Waddell. Both have significant experience pitching on the weekend, so the big stage should not bother either of them. Sunday could be interesting as Derek Casey was projected to eat some innings before he left this week's game with an injury. I would expect Johnny Wholestaff to pitch, with first year Adam Haseley getting his second career start, and first career weekend start.
Both teams desperately need a series victory. Both are under .500 and are on the fringe of the ACC Tournament right now. Two wins could prove huge for either team.
All the games are on ESPN3, so if you're near an ipad, computer, or phone, you should be able to catch the Hoos in action.