After taking last weekend "off" for "exams," the Virginia baseball team returns to the field this weekend as they play host to the Duke Blue Devils.
UVa has an uphill battle to fight if they want to play in Durham in two weeks, and an even tougher road if they want to play the following weekend in the NCAA tournament.
Currently, UVa is on the outside looking in for the ACC Tournament. The ACC Tournament lets in the top 10 teams in the conference, with the 7th through 10th teams playing a play in game on the Tuesday of the Tournament. It's not all terrible news though, even with the Hoos in 11th right now, they only trail 10th/9th place Wake Forest and Georgia Tech (11-13) by 1 game, 8th place Virginia Tech (12-14) by 1 game, 7th place NC State (11-12) by 1.5 games, and 6th and 5th place Clemson(13-13) and Notre Dame (12-12) by 2 games. There are obviously other tiebreaker factors that could come into play, but if the chips fall correctly, UVa could jump all the way to 7th with a sweep this weekend.
Speaking of this weekend, the Blue Devils enter on a three game winning streak. They had last weekend off from ACC play, but swept a doubleheader from NC Central on Sunday, and beat Davidson on Tuesday. Their ACC play has not been all that great, winning only 7 of 23.
Under Coach O'Connor, UVa has dominated the series with Duke, dropping only one series and compiling a 27-8 record. The Cavaliers won the series last year by the skin of their teeth, taking two of three, but all three games turned out to be one run affairs.
Offensively, the Blue Devils are lead by Freshman Peter Zyla. The freshman has played in nearly every game for Duke and leads the team with a .336 average and .440 slugging percentage. They don't feature much power, but are lead in home runs by senior Andy Perez, who has three on the season. Weirdly enough, Perez also has more stolen bases and attempts than the rest of the Blue Devils combined.
On the mound, Andrew Istler is their guy. Even though Bailey Clark has a better ERA than Istler (2.98 vs. 3.18), Istler has more starts, a better record, and significantly more innings than Clark. Istler is also striking out nearly one batter per inning, and has only walked 14 in 73.2 innings. The lone blemish in Istler's stat line is the .270 average that batters have against him. So, Istler strikes out a lot of batters, does not walk many, but also gives up a lot of hits. I don't get it.
As noted above, UVa needs to win most of their last 6 games to have a shot to keep playing into June. Next weekend they'll travel to Chapel Hill, so 3 wins this weekend would be huge. Of course, all this is being said assuming nobody breaks their arm opening the door to get into Davenport Field.