The thrill of earning a spot in the College World Series was followed up by disappointment as the Virginia Cavaliers went 0-2 in Omaha. Both games were one run losses. On Friday, Florida rallied in the late ninth to walk it off over the ‘Hoos, 6-5. Sunday’s game saw UVA fall short on a comeback bid of their own, losing 4-3 to TCU. After taking some time to process this season’s ending, here is how I would assess it.
Wrapping Up The 2023 Season
Giving a fair evaluation on Virginia baseball this year is not exactly straightforward. On one hand, advancing to the College World Series is a dream and a major accomplishment for any program. On the other, Brian O’Connor’s program has been one of the most consistent and successful ones in the country, so a championship mindset is at play every year.
No matter how you slice it, the Cavaliers’ showing in Omaha was disappointing. They absolutely belonged there and were capable. But controversial management decisions in game 1 and an overall lack of production at the plate by the team’s best two players made the conclusion of the season demoralizing.
Still, it would be foolish to act as if the ‘Hoos were the clear cut most talented team in the nation. They were certainly up there, and lived up to that by earning a spot among the eight finalists. And a national championship is the ultimate goal but at the end of the day, only one program gets to experience that. As a whole, the 2023 baseball team brought plenty of joy and pride to the UVA community and that is the primary takeaway.
What’s Next For The Departures?
Kyle Teel is essentially a lock to be a first round pick in the MLB Draft. Most project him in the top ten, citing his bat to ball skills and overall athleticism, which makes him versatile in the field.
Next, expect Jake Gelof to be selected, in either the late first or second round. Scouts rave about his raw power, combined with a patient approach. The concerns lie with his ability to remain at third base in the long term.
Ethan O’Donnell could also be picked in the top five rounds. Many think he can be an all-around player at the next level, as someone who can hit for average and has sneaky pop to go along with plus speed.
Other key departures include pitchers Nick Parker, Brian Edgington, and Angelo Tonas.
Previewing The Offseason
UVA’s outlook headed into the summer looks extremely promising. Six of the nine starters in the batting order return. Starting pitcher Connelly Early is expected to come back as well and it would not be surprising to see him on the preseason first All-ACC team. Behind Early, a plethora of electric young arms can step in. Plus, O’Connor has recently been a merchant of the transfer portal, and has already added Elon transfer Joe Savino.
Essentially, there are two major questions regarding this off-season. First, can the Cavaliers keep pitching coach Drew Dickinson around? As a result of turning the tide on the Virginia staff over his four seasons in Charlottesville, his track record qualifies him for many head coaching vacancies around the country.
Second, how does UVA approach the catching position? Kyle Teel played every game behind the dish this past season. Ethan Anderson, who played first base in 2023, came out of high school as the top catcher prospect in the state of Virginia, so I would pencil him in to take that role headed into the off-season. I would not be surprised to see O’Connor use the portal to add some collegiate experience on that front as well.
We will continue to keep you covered at Streaking the Lawn as more of the picture gets uncovered.