Virginia Off To Red Hot Start

Virginia is 7-0.
Jake Gelof celebrates during a Virginia home win. ~ Photo courtesy of Matt Riley/Virginia Athletics Media Relations

Following a trip to the College World Series last season, the Virginia baseball team (7-0) is off to a blistering start to its 2022 season. While the pitching has allowed more than three runs in just one game so far, the offense has stolen the headlines having scored 90 runs over just seven games.

The Hoos started off the season with three wins against Bellarmine, Gardner-Webb, and NJIT down at the Jerry Bryson Classic at Gardner-Webb. The first home game of the season was postponed from Tuesday to Wednesday last week, but the Hoos eventually put up a dominant showing against in-state foe VMI. They outscored the Keydets 14-0 and recorded their third shutout in their first four games. The winning ways continued in a three-game series against Cornell as they thrashed the outmatched Big Red 24-9, 17-2, and 19-1. Virginia’s 60 runs in the series broke the school record for runs in a 3-game series and also tied the school record for most in any 3-game span.

At the plate, sophomore third basemen Jake Gelof has led the way by batting .611 with 5 HRs, 19 RBIs, and an astronomical 1.722 slugging percentage, the highest in the nation by a significant margin. In just the past four games, he hit .900 with 4 HRs, 15 RBIs, and a truly absurd 2.500 slugging percentage.

And if all that wasn’t impressive enough, in Sunday’s series sweeping win against Cornell, Gelof hit for the cycle becoming the first Virginia player to do so since 2001. Unsurprisingly, Gelof was named ACC Player of the Week for his performances against VMI and Cornell.

As a team, the Hoos rank fifth in the nation in runs per game meaning Gelof isn’t the only Hoo off to a hot start. In fact, freshman Casey Saucke has gotten his collegiate career off to a fantastic start, even matching Gelof in on-base percentage at .655. Devin Ortiz has also started his 2022 year off well following some heroic performances in the Hoos’ NCAA Tournament run to the College World Series a year ago.

While batting .350 at the plate thus far, Ortiz has also been dominant on the mound. He’s made two appearances (one start), accounting for six innings of scoreless baseball. He has yet to walk a batter, has only allowed three hits, and has struck out 10 opponents. The rest of the Virginia pitching staff has put together some remarkable performances as well. Collectively, the Hoos have posted a 1.57 ERA, good for seventh in the nation, and 104 strikeouts, the most in the nation.

Five different Virginia pitchers have eclipsed 10 strikeouts already, and 13 of the 14 pitchers who have made an appearance have averaged at least one strikeout per inning. Pitcher Jay Woolfolk, also a quarterback on the football team, made his second appearance of the season in relief and tallied four strikeouts in 2.1 innings. Graduate transfer Brian Gursky provided the pitching highlight of the week, recording an immaculate inning – striking out the side on nine pitches – en route to a career-high 9 strikeouts and his second win of the young season.

UVA coach Brian O’Connor’s squad has gotten off to a great start after a deep postseason run last year. The Hoos hope to continue their hot start against William & Mary on Tuesday as they welcome another in-state opponent to Charlottesville. The homestand then continues with a three-game weekend series against Penn State and a Tuesday game against George Washington. ACC play gets under way March 11 for Virginia heads to Durham to take on Duke for a weekend series.