If you were sitting at home on Monday thinking to yourself how much of a threat Bryant was going to be this weekend in Charlottesville you are either a Class 1 college baseball nerd, or you are lying to me and you. But here we are and the UVa faithful need to take notice: Bryant is a legit baseball team.
Let's get their history out of the way. You likely have not heard of the Bryant Bulldogs simply because 2016 is only their 7th year in Division 1. They joined Division 1 in 2009, became a member of the Northeast Conference in the 2009-2010 school year, and finally became eligible for the postseason in 2012. The Bulldogs did not waste any time making their first NCAA tournament a year later and repeating the feat in 2014. They have yet to win a regional, but this is their first time as a 2 seed (3 seed in both '13 and '14).
As for this season, Bryant has forgotten how to lose. Obviously, playing in the NEC and Northeast means you must take their record with a grain of salt, but going 47-10 overall and 26-4 in the NEC is something that must be recognized. The NEC does not have Omaha-caliber teams, but the Bulldogs have wins over Kentucky, San Diego State, and an 18-6 win over Boston College in late April. Not to mention, they haven't had a losing streak all season.
Sophomore James Karinchak is their starter and will likely start against ECU on Friday, so UVa should not have to worry about him. The Hoos will likely face RHP Brandon Bingel (9-3, 3.52) or LHP Steve Theetgee (9-0, 2.84). If the Cavaliers can avoid having a matchup with Theetge, who is reportedly a "craft lefty" that does not throw hard, that would be the best case scenario.
Otherwise, whoever plays Bryant is going to need to get a lead early. The Bulldogs pen is bolstered by their closer, LHP Justin Snyder (2.18, 10 SV) whose lower arm slot produces a lot of movement.
At the plate, everyone will benefit from Bryant's best player, CF Matt Albanese being out who a broken hand, but they will all have to keep an eye out for 1B Robby Rinn who leads Bryant with a .378 average and 25 doubles. They have 55 home runs as a team on the season, and with Davenport being so cavernous, they likely will not be able to take advantage of the long ball.
When you look at Bryant's numbers you are taken aback by them. Overall, they are fourth in the nation in batting, sixth in scoring, and 11th in ERA, but it will need to be seen just how inflated those numbers are due to their weak conference and midweek opponents. Do not get me wrong, Bryant is a well coached, well disciplined team, but they have not played a series against an NCAA tournament team all year, and only had two on their schedule all season.
The Bulldogs kick off the weekend against East Carolina on Friday at 6. Seeing how they hold up against the Pirates could be a sign of what they could do against Virginia if they play later in the weekend.