No. 6 baseball set for duel with Old Dominion
O'Connor, Virginia ready for last non-conference matchup
The top-ranked Virginia baseball team will tune up for the start of ACC play this weekend with a Wednesday game against Old Dominion at Davenport Field. The originally scheduled game against George Washington Tuesday was postponed because of the snowstorm.
This season, the Monarchs fell victim to Kentucky, who defeated the Cavaliers in their season opener. In 2013, it took Virginia 10 innings to beat Old Dominion (8-4) on April 17. In that game, the Cavaliers gave up a season-high 16 hits and nine runs.
Senior right-hander Artie Lewicki started that game in one of just three appearances last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2012. While Lewicki looked to be back on track after his five inning, six strikeout outing against William & Mary Feb. 19, he is now suffering a strained oblique and will likely miss his scheduled midweek start. No exact timetable for his return has been set.
“It’s a tough thing to recover from,” coach Brian O’Connor said. “It just takes time, and everybody’s different on it.”
The Cavaliers have not named Wednesday’s starter yet, but options include freshman right-hander Connor Jones and senior right-hander Whit Mayberry.
“I anticipate that Jones will probably start one of the games, but Mayberry didn’t pitch at all this weekend,” O’Connor said.
Jones has been a key reliever this season, posting a 1.69 ERA in his five appearances, with eight strikeouts in 10.2 innings pitched. Though he earned his first career save Saturday against Monmouth, junior right hander Nick Howard remains the Cavaliers’ closer. Sophomore left-hander David Rosenberger, working 7.2 innings with a 1.17 ERA and 10 strikeouts in five appearances, has also been lights out from the bullpen.
“David Rosenberger’s really developed into an outstanding, consistent pitcher for us out of our pen,” O’Connor said. “Right now, he’s that left-hander you bring in and you know he’s going to throw strikes. You know he’s going to change speeds.”
Sophomore left-hander Nathan Kirby, sophomore right-hander Josh Sborz, and sophomore left-hander Brandon Waddell are the weekend starters going into ACC play. Kirby and Sborz have both recorded wins in all three of their starts this season, and Waddell notched his first career complete game Sunday in a rain-shortened six innings.
The Cavaliers’ depth extends to behind the plate — integral to the success of the pitching staff. Junior Nate Irving, sophomore Robbie Coman and freshman Matt Thaiss all are viable options at catcher.
“It’s unbelievable — we have a great corps of catchers, which is big,” Waddell said. “When we’re struggling out there, they help pull us through, and they help handle the game, so it’s really big to have guys back there that you trust. You can tell that it’s just going to be an absolutely great group of guys.”
Irving, Coman and Thaiss are also important contributors on offensive. Thaiss has seen some time as designated hitter, leading Virginia with four doubles. Irving, who has started 112 games since the start of 2012, hit his first career home run Saturday.
Such depth bodes well for Virginia, who begins 10 weekends of ACC games Friday at Duke.
The clash with Old Dominion is set for 3 p.m. Wednesday afternoon at Davenport Field.