No. 19 Virginia started off the 2023 season over the weekend in the Hughes Bros. Challenge, picking up wins over Navy, Ohio, and UNCW. Over the course of three games, the Cavaliers (3-0, 0-0 ACC) racked up 39 runs, setting the tone that this season’s lineup had the potential to be even better than last year’s squad.
Game 1 – Virginia 24, Navy 5
Virginia took the field in front of a home crowd at Disharoon Park Friday afternoon to face a Midshipmen (0-3, 0-0 Patriot League) team that hoped to rebound off a lackluster 2022 season where they ended with a 19-26 record. Unfortunately for Navy, it was met with a Cavalier team that was fired up to make another College World Series run.
Graduate student pitcher Brian Edginton got the opening day nod for the Cavaliers and was making his Virginia debut following a transfer from Elon. He started off the game strong and held Navy scoreless through the first four innings. While he faced some trouble in the fifth, he ended his outing with three strikeouts and held the Midshipmen to just two runs.
The highlight of the day, however, was the Cavalier offense. They scored 24 runs, which was the most in a Virginia season opener since 1901. Another transfer, junior outfielder Ethan O’Donnell, had a strong debut and showed why he was ranked No. 15 on D1 baseball’s top 50 impact transfers. He ended the game 2-4 with a home run and three RBIs.
A couple of MLB draft hopefuls also had great performances for the Cavaliers. Junior infielder Jake Gelof and junior catcher Kyle Teel had a combined five hits and five RBIs – Gelof with a double down the right field line, and Teel with a home run.
The game ended with a Virginia victory 24-5 after seven innings due to a mercy rule, which ends games if a team is leading by more than 10 runs after seven innings.
Game 2 – Virginia 8, Ohio 4
The Cavaliers traveled to Wilmington, N.C. Saturday to face the Bobcats (1-2, 0-0 MAC) and continued their offensive success. They came close to matching their Friday afternoon performance, racking up 19 hits, bringing their total through two games to 39.
Gelof hit his first home run of the season to break a 3-3 tie in the fourth inning. His 26th career home run moved him up to 10th all-time for Virginia. Sophomore infielder Griff O’Ferall also had a great game, picking up four hits, which matched his career high.
On the pitching side, graduate student Nick Parker hit a double-digit strikeout total for the second straight start. He ended the 2022 season with a career-high 10 strikeouts in the Greenville Regional, which he matched Saturday afternoon. He was followed by freshman pitchers Bradley Hodges and Evan Blanco who combined for three scoreless innings. The Cavaliers ultimately won the game 8-4 and moved to 2-0 on the season.
Game 3 – Virginia 7, UNC Wilmington 0
Sunday was all about the pitching for Virginia who faced the host of the Hughes Bros. Challenge, the Seahawks (2-1, 0-0 CAA). Freshman pitcher Jack O’Connor got the start and dominated in his collegiate debut. He struck out seven batters over five innings. He shut out UNC Wilmington and limited them to a single hit. Junior Jake Berry and sophomore Jay Woolfolk took over for the next four innings and continued the shutout.
Gelof, once again, put up a great offensive effort, hitting another home run and driving in four runs. Through the first three games, Gelof’s nine RBIs rank sixth in all of college baseball. The Cavaliers won the game 7-0 and handed UNCW their first loss of the season.
Starting off the season on the right foot offensively was important for Virginia, who lost two of their middle-of-the-order bats in Alex Tappen and Devin Ortiz. This season the Cavaliers will look to make it back to the College World Series after suffering a disappointing defeat in last year’s Greenville Regional. Through the first three games, it is clear that incoming freshman and transfer players will make a profound impact on the team’s success.
The Cavaliers will play their next game against Longwood at 3 p.m. Tuesday at Disharoon Park. The game will be broadcast on ACCN.