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State of the Program: Baseball

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Let’s check in with the Hoos on the diamond.

Virginia Media Relations

For the second time since the 2003 season, the UVA baseball team missed out on the NCAA Regionals. While missing only two NCAA Tournaments in 16 years is a very rare feat, missing two in a row is at the very least worth an eye raise in Charlottesville. The last two seasons have been disappointing, but there’s also very good explanations for both. The 2018 team was ravaged by injuries while the 2019 team was very young.

It should be somewhat reassuring that, since the injuries came before the youth, that 2020 will be a different story. For all those that are calling for changes in the coaching staff, keep in mind that UVA is only five years removed from winning the College World Series and three years removed from winning 43 games. That’s only one less game than the 2015 College World Series Champion team won.

Five Year Results

UVA Baseball Five Year Results

Year Record ACC Record, Rank Postseason Result
Year Record ACC Record, Rank Postseason Result
2019 32-24 14-16, 10th Lost in ACC Tournament
2018 29-25 12-18, 10th Lost in ACC Tournament
2017 43-16 18-12, 4th NCAA Regional
2016 38-22 19-11, 3rd Hosted NCAA Regional
2015 44-24 15-15, 7th NATIONAL CHAMPS!!!

Obviously, missing out on the 2019 NCAA Regional was a disappointment, but this is still one of the flagship programs at UVA.

2019 Recap

2019 Stars: Nic Kent, Tanner Morris, Brendan Rivoli, Zack Gelof, Chesdin Harrington, Devin Ortiz, Kyle Whitten

The 2019 UVA baseball started the season with a ton of question marks. The 2018 season ended in disappointment, but 2019 had a fresh outlook getting Cam Simmons, Chesdin Harrington, and Noah Murdock back from injury added to returners Griff McGarry and Andrew Abbott and newcomers Nic Kent, Zack Gelof, and Mike Vasil, even if it was based on youth and inexperience. That youth and inexperience was on full display as UVA started the season 9-11 and found themselves with a 10-14 ACC record preparing to host top-ten Louisville.

The Hoos took that series and all of a sudden found themselves squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble. After a series win over Virginia Tech, the Hoos probably needed only one win in the ACC Tournament and they’d have stemmed the NCAA Tournament drought at a single season. Unfortunately, they dropped both of their ACC Tournament contests against UNC and Miami and found themselves on the outside looking in on Selection Monday.

2020 Outlook

Key Returners: Nic Kent, Brendan Rivoli, Zack Gelof, Devin Ortiz, Kyle Whitten, Andrew Abbott, Mike Vasil

I’m predicting a bounce back from Virginia next season as much of youth and inexperience returns. The lineup will be led by Nic Kent who burst on the scene as a freshmen on his way to All-ACC and Freshman All-American honors. Brendan Rivoli, who tied for the team lead in home runs is back , and third-baseman Zack Gelof also returns after a promising first year.

But the bigger improvement should come on the mound. And by improvement, I really mean it can’t get much worse. Even with junior, Noah Murdock starting Friday nights, this was one of the most inexperienced (in terms of innings pitched) pitching staffs Virginia has ever seen and it showed. Virginia pitchers walked batters this season at a rate of 4.95 walks per nine innings. That’s easily the highest in the Brian O’Connor era and significantly higher than the 3.22 walks per nine innings Virginia pitchers have averaged in the last 16 years. As expected, Virginia’s WHIP has also spiked, topping out at 1.55. The next highest is 1.34 (last season), with a 16 year average of 1.25. That’s just not Virginia baseball. I expect that to improve with an extra year under these guys’ belts. Mike Vasil struggled in his first year, but that’s not to be unexpected. I still think Griff McGarry can be a starter, and Devin Ortiz was Virginia’s most consistent pitcher down the stretch.

Kyle Whitten led the team in saves, but the real kicker might be Andrew Abbott. After earning Freshman All-American honors at the back end of the pen in 2018, Abbott struggled in 2019. He’s gotten a start for the Orleans Firebirds in the Cape Cod league this summer so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him in the rotation next season bringing back fond memories of Branden Kline who became a starter in his third year after coming out of the pen in his first two years. If nothing else, it would bring another quality arm with experience to the starting rotation.