No. 12 baseball hosts weekend round robin
Virginia attempts to remain unbeaten over weekend
It did not take long for the No. 12 Virginia baseball team to catch fire this season. With an undefeated start, the Cavaliers (8-0) primed for another stellar season under the reign of coach Brian O’Connor. Their next test comes at home in round robin play — they will face Niagara University (3-3) and La Salle University (0-7) twice each this weekend.
The last time the Cavaliers took the field, they avenged their fatal loss of last year’s NCAA Tournament, routing the College of William and Mary 11-3 Tuesday. The Tribe was the latest victim of Virginia’s explosive offense that has been unleashed late in most games. The Cavaliers are a threat to put up big innings, as their offensive output tends to come in large bunches. William and Mary was able to stop the bleeding in the bottom of the seventh inning as Virginia played seven runs to take the lead and cement another win.
Virginia tends to start out slow on offense, not scoring much in the first few innings. But, patience has led to better output from the Cavalier hitters as games progress. This was no different against William and Mary — Virginia only mustered one run before the seventh inning outburst.
“I told our position players after the game that I was really proud of them because a few of them did not have great approaches in their first couple of at bats… but they came back in their last two at-bats and really put some quality at-bats up for our team, and that was good to see," O’Connor said.
Virginia’s offense has relied thus far on its upperclassmen power hitters to provide big hits in key situations to get the team on a rally. Junior outfielder Adam Haseley is Virginia’s best all-around threat at the plate — he leads the team with four home runs to go with 11 RBIs and has hit a stellar .438. Junior first baseman Pavin Smith has collected his fair share of big hits, amounting to a team-leading 15 RBIs. Senior catcher Robbie Coman caught fire in last weekend’s series against Rutgers, hitting three home runs during the sweep, and leads Virginia with a .467 batting average as he tries to fill the shoes of the great Matt Thaiss behind the plate.
To complement the power numbers, the Cavaliers have shown solid speed on the base paths to set up run-scoring opportunities. Sophomore outfielder Jake McCarthy is a perfect 7-7 in stolen bases — the most any Cavalier had in the entire season last year was six. Versatile junior second baseman Ernie Clement is also a perfect 3-3 in stealing attempts thus far.
Virginia will be favored against both of its opponents this weekend. The more threatening team to the Cavaliers’ perfect season will most likely be Niagara, who is riding a three-game winning streak into Charlottesville. The Purple Eagles started the season getting swept by Baylor in a three-game set, with the last game being a 6-21 blowout at the hands of the Bears. The team looked very sharp in its second series against Norfolk State, however, only allowing one run the entire series. La Salle comes to Charlottesville still looking for its first win after starting its season a dismal 0-7. Niagara and La Salle will kick off the round robin with a game at 11 a.m. at Davenport Field Friday.
Virginia’s first game of the round robin will be on Friday at 4 p.m. against Niagara after the Purple Eagles’ match against the Explorers. The Cavaliers will then have a doubleheader on Saturday, taking on La Salle at noon and Niagara at 3 p.m., before wrapping up the weekend with a 2:30 p.m. match against La Salle Sunday.