The Virginia Cavaliers took all three from Louisville this weekend. Brian O’Connor’s squad followed up a convincing 15-5 win on Friday by surviving a late comeback bid and winning 4-1 on Saturday night. The Hoos completed the series sweep on Sunday afternoon with a 8-3 victory.
Here are five takeaways from the weekend:
Yes, Virginia played a struggling Louisville team, but this is exactly what they needed
The Cavaliers’ scorching hot start and 25-0 non-conference slate was well-documented. However, the team entered the weekend as losers of four of their previous five ACC series. This included dropping two of three against Virginia Tech (11-14 in conference) and Pitt (10-14 in conference).
So entering a weekend hosting Louisville, another team towards the bottom of the ACC standings, it was clear that Virginia was the better team. But nothing could be taken for granted. Regardless, they handled business and that’s the first time in a while that we can say that.
The Hoos were beneficiaries of three quality starts, including a new addition to the weekend rotation
The starting pitching had not been getting the job done and Coach O’Connor realized he needed to make adjustments. He reinserted Nick Parker to the Friday night role, bumped Brian Edgington to the Sunday spot, and moved Jack O’Connor to the bullpen outright. Connelly Early, who had been nothing short of dominant all season in a weekday starting role, took the mound in Saturday’s game.
Needless to say, the results were optimal:
- Nick Parker: 6.1 innings, 5 hits, 2 runs, 5 strikeouts, 0 walks
- Connelly Early: 6 innings, 4 hits, 1 run, 6 strikeouts, 0 walks
- Brian Edgington: 6 innings, 2 hits, 0 runs, 8 strikeouts, 0 walks
Aside from the fact that Parker was responsible for a few hit by pitches, the zero total walks is what stands out the most. All three pitchers showed tremendous command, challenging hitters, but doing so selectively.
Parker and Early seem to have the most upside as a one-two punch in the postseason. Parker has the most electric stuff and valuable experience in big games from his Coastal Carolina days. The left-hander Early complements him well, coming from an entirely different arm slot and possessing a unique ability to work the outer third of the plate. Nonetheless, the importance of Edgington’s bounce back day cannot be understated.
Let’s give a round of applause for Colin Tuft
From Chris Baker’s unlikely heroics to Anthony Stephan’s contributions down the stretch, depth has been a staple of this team’s success. This weekend, it was Colin Tuft’s turn.
After opening the weekend with a pinch-hit knock on Friday, he delivered three critical hits on Saturday. This included a solo home run and a bases loaded, two-out single in a game where runs were otherwise hard to come by. Tuft earned the start on Sunday and reached base an additional two times.
Ethan O’Donnell has the centerfield spot locked up, but don’t be surprised if you see see Tuft platoon in the corner outfield with Harrison Didawick and Casey Saucke, depending on the matchup.
The superstars are progressing back towards their normal ways
Jake Gelof did not produce eye-popping stats this weekend, but he did deliver his 20th home run. Overall, he is seeing the ball much better and continuing to draw walks.
Meanwhile, Kyle Teel exploded on Sunday, reaching base four times to increase his on base percentage got .481.
For UVA to go on a postseason run, these two will need to be in their peak form, and it seems like that’s not too far away.
The only nitpick centers around Saturday’s hitting performance
Saturday’s win reminded me of why UVA has been never slipped against mid-majors during the week. Sometimes, the offensive explosion is there, and other times you simply have to play a cleaner, more disciplined game. The Cavaliers ultimately squeaked out the win thanks to four timely Louisville errors.
The mild concern is that Virginia hitters went down on strikes 14 times. In other words, while there is a lot to feel good about regarding this past weekend, there is also work to be done. Thankfully, this time around, it can be considered me being overly critical, rather than anything else.
As a result of these victories, Virginia has secured a spot in the ACC Tournament. First, they will play a weekend series at Georgia Tech to determine their seeding. Remember that with the pooled format, earning a top four seed in the conference is especially valuable. While Wake Forest is alone with a cushion up top, Virginia remains among a cluster of teams fighting for the next three spots.