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​Baseball entertains Longwood, Liberty

Junior Robbie Coman, rest of Cavalier lineup look to continue hot streak at the plate

No. 20-ranked Virginia baseball won a crucial conference series against Miami over the weekend. But in the process, they may have lost their ace, junior Nathan Kirby, for an extended period of time.

A cloud of uncertainty hangs over the Cavalier (24-15, 9-12 ACC) pitching staff. As of Tuesday afternoon, coach Brian O’Connor had nothing new to offer on the status of Kirby — the diagnosis remains a strained left lat muscle. The team is still 24-48 hours away from establishing a timetable for the left hander’s return.

Kirby’s injury also affects Virginia’s midweek starters. Freshman Derek Casey, who takes the mound Tuesday night against Longwood, now faces the likelihood of being called upon to pitch at some point during the upcoming weekend series with NC State.

Casey has settled into his role as a midweek starter. He has won his last three decisions and allowed only four earned runs over his last 17 innings as a starting pitcher.

Offensively, the Cavaliers are playing their best baseball of late, which has taken pressure off the Virginia pitching staff.

“I think getting [junior Joe McCarthy] was huge for us,” freshman Charlie Cody said. “We’re starting to get healthy….It seems like we’re starting to roll now, which is big down the stretch.”

Over the previous 17 games, the Cavalier offense is hitting at a .298 clip and averaging 5.7 runs on 10.3 hits per game. Over the weekend, Virginia’s bats abused Miami’s pitching, scoring 16 runs and hitting .301 against one of the premier staffs in the ACC.

Junior catcher Robbie Coman is one of the drivers behind the Cavaliers’ scorching offense. He collected seven hits in 12 at-bats against the Hurricanes and is 12-for-29 since April 8, when he missed the game against VMI after taking a ground ball to the face during warmups.

“I have to take one to the eye more often,” Coman said. “I’m seeing the ball well, and once you have the confidence going into each day…you catch a few breaks and all of the sudden you have six or seven hits in a series. I’m glad to help us out any way that I can.”

But undoubtedly the biggest surprise of the weekend was Cody. The Chesapeake, Virginia native started in left for the final two games and went four-for-seven with two runs scored.

“I’m still fighting for a spot in the lineup every day, so when I get opportunities it’s awesome to take advantage of them,” Cody said.

A converted third baseman, Cody also made two highlight reel worthy plays in the outfield. On Saturday he gunned down sophomore Zack Collins at home plate and shifted momentum in the Cavaliers’ favor — in the bottom of the frame Virginia scored four runs to take the lead.

“I knew that run was really important, and if the ball came to me I had to come up throwing,” Cody said. “I’m glad I got an opportunity to make a play.”

The next day, Cody made a leaping snag against the left field wall to rob Miami of a home run.

Should Cody stay locked-in at the plate, the Cavaliers will boast a formidable bottom-third of the lineup in sophomore Matt Thaiss, Cody, and freshman Jack Gerstenmaier.

Both games will begin at 6 p.m.