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College World Series: Keeping Longhorns off the base paths will be key for Virginia

Longhorn offense excels at small ball

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Tennessee v Texas Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout this NCAA postseason, Virginia Baseball has found themselves matched up against teams predicated on the long ball. While that makes every batter that comes to the plate a threat to change the game with one swing, it also creates opportunities for strikeouts and easy outs which allow a pitcher and defense to get into a rhythm. Now enter the Texas Longhorns who will wear down a defense with constant pressure until the breaking point. The Longhorns rank first nationally in walks, eighth in sacrifice bunts, seventeenth in stolen bases all leading to being sixteenth in runs. Their 65 home runs are the fewest of any team Virginia has faced this postseason, but the offense is just as lethal.

The pressure starts right off the bat as center fielder Mike Antico sets the tone for the Texas offense. Antico leads the nation in walks and is second in stolen bases. While only batting .271, his on-base percentage is tops on the team at .440. He’s followed by a trio of .300 hitters and All-Big 12 performers. Cam Williams was named 2nd Team All-Big 12 and leads the team in doubles. Then there is Freshman All-American and First Team All-Big 12 honoree Mitchell Daly who leads the team with a .325 average. In the clean-up spot, Ivan Melendez joined Daly on the All-Big 12 First Team and leads the team in home runs with 12.

Before getting to Melendez in the lineup, teams have to deal with Zach Zubia who knocked ten homers and led the team in RBI on his way to All-Big 12 Honorable Mention honors. He’s followed by three more All-Big 12 Honorable Mention honorees in Douglas Hodo III, Trey Faltine, and Silas Ardoin. Hodo and Faltine come in tied for second only behind Antico in runs scored while Ardoin keeps the pressure on at the back end of the lineup coming in third on the team in walks. And if all that isn’t enough at the very bottom of the lineup comes Eric Kennedy. The sophomore has hit four home runs on the year, including one against Tennessee on Tuesday and has swiped 18 bases on the year, second to Antico.

Mike Vasil will have to be sharp and hit his spots as this is a team that will maximize every baserunner they get. The lineup gives you no chance for a break and will test the Virginia pitchers for all nine innings.

Follow the Hoos as they look to keep their season going. First pitch is at 7 P.M. on ESPN2.