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Baseball’s ‘iron men’ will lead Virginia to glory

O’Ferrall, Anderson and Didawick have led Virginia through an electrifying season while playing in all 54 games

Virginia baseball has had 35 players appear in a game in 2024. Only five have started in every game they have appeared in, which is already an admirable feat. Within that group, only three have started all 54 games. Junior infielder Griff O’Ferrall has started every match at shortstop, junior utility player Ethan Anderson has split time at designated hitter, first base and catcher while sophomore outfielder Harrison Didawick has played all across the outfield.

All three players could have easily taken a rest day at any point over the four months of regular season play, but they did not. O’Ferrall, Anderson and Didawick have displayed incredible stamina while also serving as some of the best contributors for Coach Brian O’Connor’s squad. Going into the postseason, this trio will be at the heart of a championship push that has been culminating for months. 

In the average college baseball game, each team receives 27 outs over the course of nine innings of play, and games last about two and a half hours. At the plate, a batter has milliseconds to decide whether or not to swing at a pitch that likely clocks in at around 90 miles per hour. Then they must make hard contact with the few inches that make up the barrel of the baseball bat if they are to successfully get on base. 

Defensively in the field, if a player is to play in all 54 games of the season, they would play well over 1,000 outs and hundreds of innings in the heat of the sun from February to May — and hopefully June, should their team advance well into the NCAA Tournament. A team plays about four games a week, every single week. The average player could easily suffer a myriad of injuries as well, such as being hit with a stray fastball, any soft tissue injury, colliding with an outfield wall or all sorts of cuts and contusions that could cause them to miss playing time. O’Ferrall, Anderson and Didawick have powered through all of these aspects of the game throughout the regular season, and they have each had a stellar 2024 campaign.

O’Ferrall is regarded as one of the best defenders in the entire country but is also a key part of the potent Cavalier offense. Operating as the everyday leadoff hitter, O’Ferrall hit .328 and led the team with a whopping 81 hits during the regular season. He also displayed a newfound power stroke, clubbing 22 extra base hits.

Anderson has had a different 2024 season. While O’Ferrall reprised his role from 2023, Anderson moved all across the lineup and the baseball diamond this season. He was initially slotted in at either catcher or a potential rerun at first base, but he ended up settling in at designated hitter for the majority of the season. He was the everyday cleanup hitter last year, but with freshman infielder Henry Ford claiming that spot, Anderson has hit all across the batting order — usually hitting sixth or seventh.

Anderson has done well wherever he is lined up, batting to the tune of a .329 batting average. While he relied on doubles and home runs last year, he has developed elite plate discipline and has drawn 33 walks to register a strong .429 on-base percentage. 

As for Didawick, his breakout 2024 season has been marked by a team-leading 23 home runs — just one short of breaking Jake Gelof’s single-season school record set in 2023. Didawick has been crucial for Virginia’s success in 2024, making huge plays as an everyday starter in the outfield. Didawick got some playing experience as a freshman last year, usually as the ninth batter, but he has since turned into one of the best hitters in the heart of O’Connor’s lineup.

Didawick’s strong .306 batting average, while nothing short of spectacular, does not stand out among a group of stellar Cavalier hitters. However, his team-leading 65 RBIs have helped push Virginia to be the top offense in the country. In the final game of the regular season, Didawick also highlighted his clutch hitting ability by smacking a walk-off home run to complete a sweep of the series against Virginia Tech.

Despite a 40-win season, Virginia will face an uphill battle in the ACC Tournament as the No. 4 seed. The Cavaliers take on No. 9 seed Georgia Tech and No. 5 seed Florida State — the most arduous pool in the tournament. 

The tournament runs Tuesday to Saturday in Charlotte, N.C., and all games will be broadcast on ACCN. It can also be reasonably assumed that Virginia has clinched a spot in the NCAA Tournament, which will begin with Regionals May 31 to June 3. And while the College World Series is much further down the road, it is still less than one month away. 

Deploying a trio of outstanding playmakers that can be consistently relied upon to produce in every game is essential for O’Connor’s squad heading into this period, especially as the pitchers can be unreliable. The last push for the 2024 season is finally here, and the Cavaliers will need their star trio — as well as their vast arsenal of elite offensive weapons — to rise to the occasion to help balance out the inconsistent pitching staff. With O'Ferrall, Anderson and Didawick leading the charge, anything is possible.


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