Separated by about 2.5 hours (depending on the tunnels), the Old Dominion Monarchs and Virginia Cavaliers are about as familiar with each other as any teams could be in an NCAA Regional matchup. The two teams have played 65 times historically with ODU holding a 33-30-2 advantage. They faced off at least once a season between 2013 and 2019 with Virginia winning six of those ten games and the last four in the series. They were scheduled to play each other back in April, but the game was cancelled due to weather.
With all their familiarity however, they enter the Columbia Regional in different roles. Where Virginia is usually the powerhouse, it’s the Old Dominion Monarchs coming in as the number one seed, sporting a 42-14 record and having won nine of their last ten including a Conference USA Championship last weekend in Louisiana. Their 42 wins are the most since they won 50 games in 1985 and it’s their first Conference USA Title (they joined in 2014). The Monarchs will be making their ninth appearance in an NCAA Regional, but their first as a number one seed, and just their second since 2000 (2014 also in Columbia).
Old Dominion’s success starts at the plate. The team has boomed a school record 101 home runs (tops in NCAA), easily shattering the previous record of 66. They’re batting .311 as a team and have a collective .554 slugging percentage. They have seven hitters batting over .300 and seven hitters with at least eight home runs. For comparison, eight is as many home runs as the Cavaliers’ team leader, Kyle Teel, has hit. Leading the way is Senior outfielder Kyle Battle who hit .326 and led the team in home runs with 18 on his way to C-USA First Team honors. Carter Trice led the Monarchs in batting average at .359 and was named C-USA Freshman of the Year. Andy Gariola was second to Battle in home runs with 14 and led the team in RBI earning C-USA Second Team honors. Joining Gariola on the C-USA Second Team was junior shortstop Tommy Bell who was second on the team in batting at .354. Rounding out the lineup, Brock Gagliardi and Robbie Petracci each hit over .300 with at least eight home runs.
While the lineup gets the headlines, the Monarchs were also really solid on the mound with Hunter Gregory as their ace. The junior amassed an 8-2 record with a 2.84 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 10.5 K per nine innings. For his efforts, he joined Battle on the C-USA First Team. He also puts ODU in an interesting situation as he was generally the team’s second starter on the weekend. In order to get in as many games as possible, C-USA played four game series and Gregory generally pitched the second Friday game (if there was a double header) or the Saturday game. That will allow ODU to save Gregory for their second game of the Regional figuring they get by Jacksonville with another starter. Following Gregory is Ryne Moore. Moore went 8-1 with a 3.33 ERA, 1.20 WHIP in a team leading 78.1 innings pitched. The bullpen is anchored by the 1-2 punch of Jason Hartline and Noah Dean. Hartline is an innings eater appearing in 25 games and pitching 44.1 innings. He compiled a 5-0 record with a 1.62 ERA and 1.04 WHIP. Dean was named to the C-USA All-Freshman team and led the team with eight saves. He’s struck out a ridiculous 42 batters in just 19.1 innings pitched and allowed opposing teams to hit a paltry .197 against him.
The Monarchs square off against Jacksonville Friday at 7 PM in hopes of advancing to the program’s first Super Regional.