Who’s the Pack playing?
Mascot: Cavaliers | School Location: Charlottesville, VA | Conference: ACC
2018 Record: 28-25 (12-18, 5th Coastal) | 2018 RPI Rank: 91
2017 Record: 43-16 (18-12, 2nd Coastal) | 2017 RPI Rank: 17
2016 Record: 38-22 (19-11, 2nd Coastal) | 2016 RPI Rank: 23
When? Where? How do I watch?
Location: Durham Bulls Athletic Park, Durham, NC
Game Time: Thursday, May 24 @ 3:00pm
TV: RSN / ACC Network Extra
Radio: WKNC 88.1 in Raleigh
Live Stats: ACC Stat Broadcast
Tell me about this team
This has been a drop-off-a-cliff season for Virginia. In his first 14 seasons in Charlottesville, Brian O’Connor’s Cavaliers teams had never finished ranked below 34 in RPI, while finishing in the Top 20 ten times, including four Top 3 finishes... oh, and that 2015 National Championship (with a squad that finished 21st in RPI). This season’s barely-above .500 record and RPI ranking of 91st (sure to move up after today’s game, win or lose) is a complete anomaly.
Well, you figured that rebuild would have to happen sooner or later. You figured they couldn’t sustain that level of excellence for forever. But what exactly has happened this year to lead to the very un-UVa like results? That’s kinda tricky, because there’s nothing glaring.
This team doesn’t have a weekend series sweep to it’s credit, even though it played teams like Eastern Kentucky (188 RPI), Yale (196), and Boston College (170) in three-game weekend sets. The Cavaliers got swept in series against Miami (63) and Clemson (11), but five of those six losses were by one run. Overall, the team has ten one-run losses on the year, but is also 9-10 in one-run games, so it’s not a matter of bad luck. Really, this could be chalked up to a team playing to the level of competition more than anything else. That, in and of itself, is very uncharacteristic of Brian O’Connor teams. They’ve always been consistent effort and outcome teams. Couple that level-of-competition play with a team that lost a lot of talent from a year ago, and you can see why Virginia has taken a dip this year into the non-NCAA Tournament waters. But they won’t be there for long.
While this team is not the efficient and productive offensive unit (.270/.363/.377 slash with 27 HR and 33 SB) that past teams have been, especially in the power department, it’s still a lineup full of hitters with good approaches and there are a couple young pieces to build around moving forward. Juniors Andy Weber (2B) and Nate Eikhoff (1B) might not be around next year, but Tanner Morris (SS) and Alex Tappan (OF) are two very talented players to build the offense around going forward. Whether or not reinforcements show up to help those guys produce is the question.
On the mound, Bobby Nicholson is already proving to be an effective starting pitcher, while Andrew Abbott is a stud whether he remains in the bullpen going forward or moves to a starting role once Derek Casey and Daniel Lynch are playing pro ball next year. Either way, UVa is UVa and they’re going to be loaded with pitching talent. The staff as a whole has talent throughout, sporting a team 4.19 ERA with opposing teams slashing .245/.339/.369 against them.
2B Andy Weber (JR) - .340 BA, .413 OBP, .529 SLG, 206 AB, 18 2B, 3 3B, 5 HR, 42 R, 48 RBI, 22 BB, 32 K, 4-4 SB. Weber is a 1st Team All-ACC honoree this year, and deservedly so. He’s been a consistent hitter through his three years in Charlottesville, handles the bat well even if he’s not a patient hitter, and plays solid defense at second base. The big difference in his game this year compared to years prior is his extra-base hit rate which has gone way up.
SS Tanner Morris (FR) - .299 BA, .400 OBP, .376 SLG, 194 AB, 9 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 38 R, 20 RBI, 31 BB, 28 K, 1-2 SB. The Cavalier’s leadoff hitter and an ACC All-Freshman Team selection this year, Morris has been special playing the shortstop position right out of the gate. Has an advanced approach at the plate for his age.
1B Nate Eikhoff (JR) - .284 BA, .379 OBP, .384 SLG, 190 AB, 8 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 27 R, 36 RBI, 29 BB, 24 K, 4-7 SB. Sometimes players who are good as reserves/part-time starters step it up when finally getting an opportunity at a full-time gig, and sometimes they take a nose dive. Eikhoff is neither. He’s basically the exact same player regardless of playing time. Small for a first baseman at 5’11, 190 lbs, he’s another dude who doesn’t strike out much and will probably be a 2B or utility guy in pro ball.
OF Alex Tappan (FR) - .267 BA, .326 OBP, .398 SLG, 206 AB, 13 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 24 R, 36 RBI, 14 BB, 37 K, 3-4 SB. The 6’2 freshman has some definite skill, enough that he’s playing out of position in the OF this year just to get him in the lineup (he’ll be at either 2B or 3B next year). He still has some holes in his game (what’s this thing called a “base on balls”?!), but he has plenty there to get UVa fans excited for his future.
C Cameron Comer (JR) - .267 BA, .393 OBP, .415 SLG, 135 AB, 8 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 28 R, 15 RBI, 24 BB, 30 K, 1-2 SB. Comer was a lightly-used reserve over his first two years as a Wahoo, but he’s wrestled the job away from Caleb Knight, a catcher who started 33 games a year ago, including the last 30 of the season. While Comer’s bat has been steady, it’s his defense that has been the better part of his game; he’s thrown out 13-of-29 attempted base stealers this year and sports a .993 fielding percentage.
RHP Derek Casey (SR) - 6-4, 3.58 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, .272 OBA, 88.0 IP, 92 H, 41 R, 35 ER, 24 BB, 97 K. Casey is a 3rd Team All-ACC selection this year and was a 22nd round draft pick out of high school in 2014. He was very good as a freshman on the 2015 national championship team, but blew out his elbow late in the year and had to have Tommy John Surgery. After coming back from TJS, his velocity was greatly diminished (dropping from mid-90’s to high 80’s), but it appears that he’s picked back up a few ticks on the radar gun this year. He should be drafted this year. Casey is listed as a senior, but should still have another year of eligibility left should he need it or want to use it as leverage against MLB teams for a better contract offer.
LHP Andrew Abbott (FR) - 3-4, 6 SV, 3.18 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, .223 OBA, 51.0 IP, 42 H, 21 R, 18 ER, 16 BB, 78 K. Abbott is an ACC All-Freshman Team selection this year and was a 36th round selection (Yankees) in the 2017 MLB Draft. The Cavalier’s closer did throw 3.2 IP (52 pitches) against Florida State on Tuesday, so his availability in this game is questionable. And, yes, that’s a freshman with 78 K in 51.0 IP. Impressive.
RHP Bobby Nicholson (SO) - 2-2, 0 SV, 2.70 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, .188 OBA, 40.0 IP, 26 H, 17 R, 12 ER, 17 BB, 34 K. Nicholson didn’t pitch a whole lot last year, but stepped in as a starting pitcher this year for eight games and pitched very well. He should be a weekend rotation mainstay next year. Has a low-to-mid-90’s fastball that he mixes well with a slider and curve. Given that there is no 3rd game in this tournament for Virginia - and this likely is their last game of the season - Nicholson will more certainly make an appearance.
RHP Evan Sperling (JR) - 2-0, 0 SV, 3.64 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, .179 OBA, 29.2 IP, 19 H, 12 R, 12 ER, 13 BB, 43 K. Had control issues last year (30 BB in 38.1 IP), but that could have been attributed to his first efforts in a return from Tommy John Surgery. His control has been better this year, but can still be an issue. Has the 6’6 frame and projectability that scouts love; he’ll be drafted this year. Should definitely appear in this game.
RHP Mack Meyer (SR) - 0-0, 0 SV, 3.70 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, .263 OBA, 24.1 IP, 25 H, 13 R, 10 ER, 6 BB, 22 K. A graduate transfer from the University of San Francisco, Meyer is your one-inning non-closer guy. Not an overpowering pitcher, he relies on a side-arm delivery for effectiveness and deception. Think of him as a poor man’s Ethan DeCastor (Duke sidearm reliever).
LHP Bennett Sousa (SR) - 5-4, 5 SV, 5.40 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, .225 OBA, 41.2 IP, 36 H, 27 R, 25 ER, 22 BB, 58 K. Sousa is one of two guys who will close out games for the Wahoos. He was a 34th round draft pick last year, but chose to come back for his senior season. That will probably pay off in draft position, but only as a 9th or 10th round selection as a senior money saver. Has good swing-and-miss stuff with 102 K in 74.2 IP over the last two years, but control can be a major issue.
Quick! Fun Facts!
Sorry, y’all. Running out of time to get this thing up. No fun facts today.
Reid Johnston is starting for NC State, but he goes less than three innings as the coaching staff chooses to save him for a potential semifinal start on Saturday. The Johnny Wholestaff game gets iffy at times, but State keeps the Virginia bats at bay enough and pulls out a 6-5 win.