The Virginia Cavaliers have a tough road to climb at the College World Series after losing to the Mississippi State Bulldogs 6-5 on Tuesday night. The Hoos now will have to go through Texas on Thursday night, then beat Mississippi State Friday and Saturday night if they want to advance to the Championship Series next week.
The Texas Longhorns’ pitching staff is not going to make things easy either. Thus far in the postseason they’re 6-1 with a 2.57 ERA as a staff. They have yet to allow more than 4 runs a game in the NCAA Tournament and have only allowed 6 runs so far in Omaha.
On Thursday night they will send their hottest pitcher to the mound in Redshirt Freshman, lefty, Pete Hansen. Hansen has been stellar this year amassing a 9-1 record, 1.79 ERA, and 0.96 WHIP over 13 starts, 18 appearances, and 85.1 innings. He won’t overpower anyone with only a 88-90 mph fastball and his strikeout numbers reflect that having only struck out 74 batters in those 85.1 innings.
Over the last two months he has been even better than his year numbers. Since mid-April he has 8 appearances and 6 starts. In those 8 appearances he has yet to give up more than 2 runs. He’s only appeared twice in the NCAA Tournament: holding Fairfield to 2 runs on 6 hits in 6.2 inning while striking out 13 in the Regional Championship game and holding Mississippi State to 1 hit over the final 2 innings in their opening game of the College World Series on Sunday.
Historically, UVA has struggled with soft throwing lefties. Many will remember Michael Roth’s performance against UVA in the College World Series in 2011. Roth held No. 1 overall seed Cavaliers to just 4 hits and 1 earned run over 7 full innings.
While Hansen’s numbers are impressive, more impressive is Texas’ use of their arms so far in Omaha. Over the two games, they’ve only had to use 4 of their pitchers. It would seem that the two that pitched against Tennessee on Tuesday (Tristan Stevens and Tanner Witt) would be unavailable, as would Sunday’s starter, Ty Madden, who through 105 pitches over 7 innings.
After Hansen, they will likely turn to Freshman righty Aaron Nixon and Redshirt Sophomore righty Cole Quintanilla who have combined for a 1.78 ERA and a sub-1 WHIP over 65.2 innings this season. Though Quintanilla has the better numbers: 1.29 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 36Ks, and .154 average against, Nixon has been the Longhorns’ closer this year totaling 8 saves on the season while putting up impressive numbers of his own: 2.35 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 34 Ks, and .216 average against.
The Cavaliers have only struck out 11 times while amassing 11 runs on 35 hits and 6 walks in the College World Series so far. Their offense has done the job they’ve needed and will be key against a pitching staff many felt was the 2nd best in the country behind Vanderbilt. They’ll avoid big strikeout pitchers, so the Hoos could be able to put pressure on the defense as they’ve done in the previous two games against Tennessee and Mississippi State.