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No. 7 baseball set for clash with 11th ranked Seminoles

Cavalier pitchers look to hit stride against Florida State

On April 25, 2014 Whit Mayberry entered Virginia’s series opener against Florida State with one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth. Following a strikeout, he fell behind 3-0 to Josh Delph before battling back to escape the jam.

The Cavaliers went on to win that contest in 10 innings in Tallahassee, 5-3. It was a marquee win for a program that reached the third game of the College World Series Finals, and Mayberry’s heroics remain etched in the memory of senior Kenny Towns.

“He went 3-0 with the bases loaded then absolutely clutched up,” Towns said. “He was as tough as could be.”

Nearly half the players for seventh-ranked Virginia (13-5, 2-4 ACC) were still playing high school ball when the Cavaliers took two-out-of-three from the Seminoles last year. They will be introduced to one of the premier teams in the ACC this weekend.

The coming series against No. 11 Florida State (17-4, 5-1 ACC) will represent Virginia’s first three games against a ranked opponent, and they come at the low-point of the Cavaliers’ season.

Virginia was on an uncharacteristic four-game losing streak before they broke it with an 8-0 drubbing of Towson Tuesday afternoon. In addition, the team has been without coach Brian O’Connor for the previous three games as he serves a four-game suspension for making accidental contact with an umpire during last Friday’s loss to Virginia Tech.

Associate coach Kevin McMullan, who is filling in for O’Connor, insisted that the process does not change with the head coach missing in the dugout.

“We’re just doing our job,” McMullan said. “Not too much is different. It’s work as usual. But it will be great to have [O’Connor] back on Saturday.”

Perhaps McMullan’s best decision as acting head coach was slotting freshman outfielder Adam Haseley into the leadoff spot for the final two games against the Hokies.

A .169 hitter to that point, Haseley went six-for-nine to close out the series in Blacksburg. The Windmere, Florida native batted leadoff once again Tuesday and collected 3 hits in five at-bats. His batting average now rests at .236.

For Haseley and the other Cavalier freshman, this series will be their first opportunity to experience the atmosphere of Davenport Field at capacity.

“The expectations have been there for those guys,” Towns said. “They know it’s going to be a big series with a lot of people in the stands. They have to go out there with the same mentality, have a lot of energy, and be ready to play.”

The Seminoles are pacing the conference at this early juncture. They lead all ACC teams in total and conference wins and have taken eight out of their last ten contests.

Coach Mike Martin’s team dropped their last game 14-8 against No. 3 Florida Tuesday in Gainesville. Florida State shot themselves in the foot—committing five errors against the Gators.

Seminole batters are not afraid to take big cuts—Florida State is second in the ACC in doubles and home runs. But with mighty hacks comes the risk of the strikeout—the Seminoles lead the conference with 201 Ks.

Virginia relies on great pitching. The Cavaliers staff ERA of 2.03 is best in the ACC and eighth nationally.

Still, Virginia is looking for the bridge between starters sophomore Connor Jones and juniors Nathan Kirby and Brandon Waddell and closer junior Josh Sborz. In short, they are searching for their Whit Mayberry.

“Our starters are going six, seven innings each outing, so you need someone to bridge the gap before you to get to [Sborz],” McMullan said. “That can be the difference in a game—those two innings between your starter and your closer.”

Regardless of outcome, McMullan expects his younger players to grow up a lot during the series.

“Adversity is a great teacher. We’ve got a great opponent coming in that’s a class program,” McMullan said. “It will be an exciting time and a great opportunity for our younger players.”

First pitch for Friday’s contest is set for 5 p.m. The Saturday and Sunday games begin at 1 p.m.


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