Virginia Baseball Notes: Hoos Will Try To Rise In Road Regional

Jake Gelof and Virginia open the NCAA Tournament against Coastal Carolina. ~ Photo courtesy of Olivia Taylor/Virginia Athletics Media Relations

The Virginia baseball team rocketed out of the gates this season and remained in contention to host the first weekend of NCAA Tournament play into May. When the draw was announced, however, UVA found itself on the road in the Greenville Regional with host East Carolina.

The Cavaliers’ closing stretch likely determined their fate. They finished the season 6-7 in their final 13 games, including a 5-5 mark after the exam break. They lost 2 out of 3 games in the final regular season series at Louisville and then dropped both games at the ACC Tournament too, leaving them with 5 losses in the last 7 games.

Still, Virginia grabbed a No. 2 seed in Greenville, a one step improvement from a No. 3 in 2021. The Hoos posted 38-17 record entering the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season after a brief hiatus from the field prior to the pandemic. A No. 2 seed is the equivalent of a top 8 seed in the March Madness basketball brackets and a solid accomplishment for the program.

“I think it came down to the last couple of weeks and we didn’t do it,” UVA coach Brian O’Connor said. “That said, it’s not a failure. Here we are a two seed in the NCAA Tournament. Hosting a regional is really, really hard thing to do. You’ve got to be consistent throughout the season, one, or you’ve just got to be extremely hot the last four weeks like East Carolina and North Carolina have done. We’ve had a tremendous year.”

A road path in the postseason is not an unfamiliar one for the program. Virginia has reached the College World Series in Omaha five times since 2009, tied for the second most in of any college baseball program, and three of those trips started with Regional play on the road. That included last year’s run as a No. 3 seed.

O’Connor presented it as a potential blessing in disguise if you treat it that way.

“The five times we’ve been to Omaha, we’ve actually proven that maybe we’re better off on the road. There’s been a lot of times we’ve hosted in this ballpark and been majorly disappointed in the Regional or Super Regional,” O’Connor said standing at Davenport Field. “One thing I’ve learned over the years is when you host, there’s a lot of pressure when you host too because every prognosticator out there is saying you should advance. Sometimes packing up the bus, going on the road, staying in a hotel, not having to worry about making weather decisions and things like that, you just show up and play when they tell you to play and you play loose. That at times can be a real big advantage.”

Can Virginia Get Back On Track?

Regardless of where the next game ended up, the Wahoos must find a way to dial up some quality baseball that has been missing in recent outings.

Virginia got shut out for the first time this season in the 3-0 ACC Tournament loss to Notre Dame and lost by 4-1 and 11-3 scores at Louisville late in the year. The bats went quiet at key moments in the tourney, going 3-16 with runners in scoring position in those two contests.

The team also has come up with short outings on the mound without getting quality starts. The Cavaliers have registered 7 quality starts where the starting pitcher made it through 6 innings with 3 earned runs allowed or less this season and they’ve had just 2 since the calendar turned to April. In Charlotte, Nate Savino went 4.2 innings against Notre Dame and Brian Gursky went 2.1 against FSU. Both players gave up runs in the first two innings and

O’Connor challenged the team with an intense practice routine prior to leaving for the NCAA Tournament in Greenville.

“It’s really just getting back to what’s made us successful” O’Connor said. “That’s being a little bit better on the mound than we’ve been. We need to get good, quality starts and play good defense. I’ve talked about that a little bit all year