3 Reasons Why Virginia Can Win Its NCAA Regional

Junior Max Cotier and Virginia hope to advance through the NCAA Regional round. ~ Photo By Kris Wright/TheSabre.com

June is upon us. What does that mean? The NCAA Tournament is on its way and the College World Series is right around the corner. And, in its 19th, and back to back, appearance, Virginia will have to battle its way through the Greenville Regional hosted by the East Carolina Pirates. UVA is one of six teams making their consecutive return to the NCAA tournament.

Though the first half of the season, which saw the Hoos go 26-3 over their first 29 games, had fans hoping to host a 2022 Regional, inconsistency in the latter half of the season has forced them on the road to take on a pod made up of No. 1 East Carolina (42-18), No. 3 Coastal Carolina (36-18-1), and No. 4 Coppin State (24-28). For all the background you need on each of these teams, check out Michael Curran’s piece ahead of the pool.

In preparation, Virginia coach Brian O’Connor has been putting the team to work, holding one of its most intense practices since the preseason this past Sunday. This intensity, particularly this late in the season, is a direct result of the Cavaliers’ poor performance in the latter half of the season and in the ACC Tournament. Dropping games to Florida State, 13-3, and Notre Dame, 3-0, UVA fans, coaches, and players were left wanting more. O’Connor said it best following the Florida State game when he commented that, “they beat us in every phase of the game … we weren’t ready to play.”

Despite the team’s recent struggles, however, the Hoos are still very strong contenders to win, and advance out of, the Greenville Regional. Here are the three biggest reasons why Virginia can advance to the Super Regional.

1. Bats on Ball

All season, while dealing with the team’s pitching struggles, the Cavaliers have been able to rely on their ability to put bats on balls. Currently UVA has seven different players batting above .300 (Jake Gelof, Casey Saucke, Alex Tappen, Griff O’Ferrall, Ethan Anderson, Addie Burrow, Justin Rubin, and Drew Hamrock). Of those seven, four are above .350 (Tappen, Saucke, Gelof, Burrow). Saucke holds the team’s longest hitting streak at 21 consecutive games, with Tappen and Ortiz behind him with 12 and 11 respectively.

These figures reflect the kind of consistency that the Hoos will need heading into the NCAA Tournament. Throughout the first half of the season, it was this offense that put pressure on other teams, making them uncomfortable, and allowed UVA to be so successful.

What is truly impressive, though, has been Virginia’s ability to send balls beyond the fence. Throughout the course of the season, UVA has accumulated 72 home runs, which contributed to 484 runs on the season. This figure is supported by the phenomenal efforts of sophomore 2022 First Team All-ACC infielder Jake Gelof. Gelof personally logged 19 home runs on the season, trailed most closely by Alex Tappen and Chris Newell who have 13 and 11 respectively. This type of power hitting forces teams to run through bullpens and creates discomfort, giving Virginia an advantage over its opponents.

With all this in mind, UVA scoring should be the least of the Cavaliers’ concerns, and should play to their advantage, as they head to Greenville.

2. Road Warriors

While many Cavalier fans were hoping to make the trip back home for a Charlottesville Regional, playing in Greenville, a foreign territory, could actually be an advantage for this team of road warriors. But, don’t take it from me. Bran O’Connor himself acknowledged the potential advantage in his pre-tournament