No. 11 baseball battles No. 13 Clemson on road
Virginia prepares to face nationally-ranked ACC foe
The Virginia men’s baseball team (14-3, 1-2 ACC) travels to Clemson, S.C. to face ACC foe Clemson (14-3, 3-0 ACC) this weekend in a matchup of nationally ranked juggernauts. The Cavaliers and Tigers will face off in a three game set from Friday to Sunday.
Virginia began the season red hot from the plate, averaging over 10 runs per game while amassing a 10-1 record. Last weekend, however, the Cavaliers experienced their first setback of the season, losing a series at North Carolina two games to one. The Virginia offense only mustered eight runs in the three game set, but the Tar Heels won mostly with their own offense — scoring nine and 12 runs in the two wins.
"We got beat … By the big inning,” coach Brian O’Connor said. “[Friday] we gave up a four-run inning and a five-run inning and [Saturday] an eight-run inning, and you're just not going to beat a good opponent like North Carolina by doing that."
Anyone following Virginia baseball this season knows that offense has been its catalyst for success. When North Carolina was able to shut down the Cavaliers at the dish, Virginia pitchers weren’t able to pick up the slack in the two losses, allowing the Tar Heels to score in bunches.
In Virginia’s lone win against North Carolina Saturday and the 10-0 romping of Monmouth Monday, however, the team’s pitching staff showed its potential for dominance.
In the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday against the Tar Heels, junior Adam Haseley threw a gem, holding North Carolina to one run over eight innings. Though he allowed six hits and walked three batters, Haseley kept North Carolina off the scoreboard on a tough day for both offenses, leading the Cavaliers to a 2-1 victory.
The Virginia pitching staff then threw the first shutout of the season against Monmouth. Three Cavalier pitchers combined to strike out 10 Hawks and allow only three hits in a dominating performance. Junior pitcher Derek Casey exited the game after three scoreless innings with a wrist injury from being hit by the ball. Senior reliever Alec Bettinger pitched five innings of stellar relief for Casey, striking out seven batters and allowing only two hits. Junior reliever Riley Wilson iced the game by striking out the side in the ninth inning.
Virginia’s pitching performances Saturday and Monday signaled to the rest of the league that the Cavaliers can beat an opponent on either side of the ball, not only at the plate. Haseley and Casey, sporting 2.16 and 2.37 ERAs respectively, have become a powerful one-two punch atop the rotation. Bettinger has been lights-out in relief all season, pitching to a 1.10 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 16.1 innings of work.
Haseley is also Virginia’s offensive leader and has been instrumental in keeping the team in attack mode at the plate. He crushed his seventh home run of the season against Monmouth, tied for third highest overall in the NCAA. The junior is a consistent offensive threat for the team even on off days — he knocked in one of two runs Saturday to contribute to his own win.
Virginia has their work cut out for them for a second straight weekend, facing a Clemson club in the midst of an eight-game win streak. The Tigers don’t hit with much power like the Cavaliers do, but they know how to get on base and manufacture runs, with four starters boasting an on-base percentage of over .430. The Tiger’s main source of pop comes from sophomore first baseman Seth Beer, who leads the team in home runs (50), RBIs (15) and slugging percentage (.605).
Where Clemson really shines, though, is on the mound. Tiger pitchers have allowed an average of only 3.4 runs per game in its first 16 matches, pitching three shutouts thus far. The clear ace is junior Charlie Barnes, boasting an outstanding 0.69 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 26 innings pitched. Freshman reliever Jacob Hennessy is the Tigers’ main threat out of the bullpen. The southpaw has an impressive 1.12 ERA in 16.1 innings pitched and has struck out 22 batters in his first campaign.
Virginia will once again have to solve a tough pitching assignment when clashing with Clemson in a marquee ACC matchup this weekend. The first pitch for game one of the series is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday in Clemson, S.C.