Who’s the Pack playing?
Mascot: Cavaliers | School Location: Charlottesville, VA | Conference: ACC
2019 Record: 15-10 (5-4, T-1st Coastal) | 2018 RPI Rank: 144
2018 Record: 29-25 (12-18, 5th Coastal) | 2018 RPI Rank: 83
2017 Record: 43-16 (18-12, 2nd Coastal) | 2017 RPI Rank: 17
When? Where? How do I watch?
Location: Doak Field at Dail Park (Raleigh, NC)
Game Time(s): Friday, Mar 29 @ 6:30pm; Saturday, Mar 30 @ 6:30pm; Sunday, Mar 31 @ 1:00pm
Radio: WKNC 88.1 in Raleigh, GoPack All-Access
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Tell me about this team
First, let’s take a look at what was said about Virginia from our 2019 Season Preview:
2018 was the first time in 15 years under Brian O’Connor that Virginia finished with a losing ACC record and the first time they failed to reach 38 wins. It was also just the third time that the team finished outside of Top 25 in RPI (the other two times they finished 29th and 34th). Needless to say, don’t bet on that happening again.
RS-SO SS Tanner Morris (.298/.397/.374, 9 2B, 31:29 BB:K) is a highly-regarded MLB Draft prospect and will lead the Wahoos offense. SR 1B/3B Nate Eikhoff (.290/.386/.394, 9 2B, 30:24 BB:K), SO 1B/3B/OF Alex Tappen (.262/.321/.390, 13 2B, 4 HR), SR C Cameron Comer (.261/.389.406, 8 2B, 4 HR), and JR OF/INF Cayman Richardson (.256/.343/.301, 7 2B, 7 SB) also all return to the starting lineup. SR OF Cameron Simmons also returns after missing all of 2018 due to injury. Simmons (.352/.432/.563, 14 2B, 9 HR, 9 SB in 2017), a two-year starter prior to his injury, was still drafted in the 15th round of last year’s MLB Draft (Rangers) despite not stepping on the baseball field all year, if you want an indication of just how good he is. JUCO C Logan Michaels could push for playing time. FR INF Zack Gelof and FR C/INF Drew Hamrock could be impact players, as could FR OF/LHP Ben Harris.
The UVa pitching staff loses their three most accomplished starters from a year ago. SR RHP Evan Sperling (2-0, 3.64 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, .179 OBA) should step into a weekend rotation role. The bullpen at least returns SO LHP Andrew Abbott (3-4, 6 SV, 3.18 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, .223 OBA), SR Riley Wilson (0-0, 3.26 ERA, 1.91 WHIP, .268 OBA), SR RHP Grant Donahue (1-2, 4.96 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, .230 OBA), JR RHP Noah Murdock (2-2, 5.40 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, .320 OBA), and SO RHP Kyle Whitten (2-1, 5.81 ERA, 1.82 WHIP, .271 OBA) to form the basis of what could be a strong relief unit. SR RHP Chesdin Harrington (3-2, 2.41 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, .160 OBA in 2017) returns after missing all of last year with an injury; he’s an impact arm. JUCO transfer SO RHP Blake Bales should also command innings on the mound. The freshman class provides an unreal amount of talented arms that could easily produce two weekend starters from the group. RHP Mike Vasil, LHP Brandon Neeck, LHP Ben Harris, and RHP Christian Sanchez are all studs. In addition to those four, RHP Zach Messinger, LHP Billy Price, and RHP Sen Kenneally are all really, really good. Seriously, that’s a ridiculous number of high-quality arms from a single recruiting class.
There’s a lot of talent, but also a lot of question marks, too. The difficult schedule won’t help, either, but should help bolster their NCAA tourney resume should they do well enough.
2019 Projected Record: 34-21 (15-15)
NCAA Tournament Bound?: Yes
Brian O’Connor took over the Virginia program in 2004. Prior to O’Connor’s arrival, the Cavaliers program had won 40 or more games in a season all of once. Virginia has won 40+ games in 12 of O’Connor’s 15 seasons in Charlottesville. Unfortunately for him, last year’s team was the worst of his tenure. This year’s team is probably the 2nd worst.
That being said, this team is still littered with players who will hear their names called in future MLB Drafts. And that’s been the weird part. Even last year’s disappointing team had five guys selected in the top 10 rounds of the draft, including two supplemental first rounders. Granted, there’s a huge difference in having two guys who are selected in the 30’s in the MLB draft versus two guys who are top 10 overall selections, as they had in 2017. Still, it’s just weird that over the last two seasons this program just hasn’t been able to click on the field and put up the gaudy win totals that they did previously.
Four of UVa’s top five hitters are freshmen or sophomores, as are two of their three weekend starting pitchers. The talent is there. This team will rebound.
Pitching is what’s holding things back right now. After dropping off nearly 100 points in each of the three slash line numbers (batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage) from 2017 to 2018, the hitting has rebounded nicely to the tune of a .297/.396/.410 slash line this year. The pitching, however, has dropped from an opponent slash line of .244/.337/.369 in 2018 to one of .262/.370/.366 this season, and that’s against a much weaker 2019 schedule.
Who’s on the mound for these guys?
Friday: RHP Griff McGarry (SO)
Saturday: RHP Noah Murdock (JR)
Sunday: RHP Mike Vasil (FR)*
*Assumed Sunday starter; only the Friday and Saturday UVa starters have been announced
SS Tanner Morris (SO) - .323 BA, .429 OBP, .535 SLG, 99 AB, 12 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 22 R, 21 RBI, 18 BB, 16 K, 0-1 SB. A draft-eligible sophomore, the left-handed hitter is ranked in some Top 50 MLB Draft prospects lists, but is likely more a 3rd-to-5th round guy due to lingering questions (next level position, ability to hit with a wood bat). Not a ton of pop in his bat or speed on the bases. Also not the smoothest defensively (6 errors and a .934 fielding percentage).
LF Brendan Rivoli (SO) - .352 BA, .419 OBP, .516 SLG, 91 AB, 6 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 21 R, 16 RBI, 5 BB, 8 K, 0-0 SB. Recruited as a catcher, Rivoli has yet to see any action behind the plate due to the logjam in front of him there. Didn’t play in either of this week’s midweek games, so not sure what’s going on there. Looks like he was shifted out of the lineup in favor of SO Alex Tappen, who’s having a down year.
2B Nic Kent (FR) - .347 BA, .467 OBP, .472 SLG, 72 AB, 4 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 20 R, 17 RBI, 13 BB, 18 K, 3-3 SB. The freshman infielder is the caboose of the Wahoos lineup, but he’s excelling in that role. Has shown an ability to churn out quality at-bats with an approach that’s advanced for his age.
CF Cameron Simmons (SR) - .319 BA, .432 OBP, .527 SLG, 91 AB, 7 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 23 R, 21 RBI, 15 BB, 16 K, 5-5 SB. Simmons is super talented, but missed all of 2018 with an injury. Despite that, he was drafted in the 15th round (Rangers) of last year’s draft. He’s an easy top 5 round draft pick come June. Hits in either the #3 or #4 spot in the lineup. Slashed .352/.432/.563 with 14 2B, 9 HR, and 9 SB in 2017.
C Logan Michaels (JR) - .377 BA, .459 OBP, .415 SLG, 53 AB, 2 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 10 R, 9 RBI, 2 BB, 6 K, 0-0 SB. JUCO transfer from Madison College where he killed it. Not much of a power hitter, though, but can smack a lot of doubles. Splits time behind the dish with SR Cameron Comer, although he is (obviously) the better offensive option. Caught all three games of last weekend’s sweep of Pittsburgh, so the job may be his now. Has thrown out 4-of-10 attempted base stealers this season (Comer has thrown out 3-of-8).
3B Zach Gelof (FR) - .305 BA, .390 OBP, .381 SLG, 105 AB, 5 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 20 R, 21 RBI, 14 BB, 23 K, 6-8 SB. Recently moved from the leadoff spot to the #2 hole, and has responded well going 5-for-13 since. Team leader in stolen bases. Was a 38th round pick (Indians) in last year’s MLB Draft.
RHP Griff McGarry (SO) - 2-3, 3.94 ERA, 1.85 WHIP, .248 OBA, 23.4 K%, 19.3 BB%, 29.2 IP, 27 H, 13 R, 13 ER, 28 BB, 34 K. A 31st round pick (Rangers) in the 2017 MLB Draft, the righty has some good stuff. He has, however, struggled with control problems (44 BB in 47.1 career IP) which has taken innings from him. Has a fast, rushed wind-up and an upward plane on his shoulders that probably affect his ability to be consistent with his delivery, thus resulting in his problems locating pitches. Fastball has decent velo, but can be flat at times. Curve if a good pitch. Change has promise.
RHP Noah Murdock (JR) - 1-1, 4.46 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, .275 OBA, 22.0 K%, 8.0 BB%, 34.1 IP, 36 H, 19 R, 17 ER, 12 BB, 33 K. 6’8, 190 lbs lanky righty is in his first full season since undergoing Tommy John Surgery in May 2017. Missed the end of that 2017 season and the first half of 2018. Was a 38th round draft pick (Nationals) in 2016 out of high school. Mostly a fastball pitcher (high 80’s to low 90’s), with a change and a curve that are decent but nothing outstanding.
RHP Mike Vasil (FR) - 1-3, 4.66 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, .292 OBA, 15.1 K%, 6.2 BB%, 29.0 IP, 33 H, 16 R, 15 ER, 10 BB, 19 K. The 6’4, 205 pounder has a big future. Hasn’t shown the strikeout stuff that he’s capable of yet, but he’s a name to keep an eye on. Has a lively low-to-mid 90’s fastball and a good curve out of a relaxed-looking delivery.
RHP Kyle Whitten (SO) - 1-1, 3 SV, 6.08 ERA, 1.73 WHIP, .286 OBA, 23.8 K%, 11.1 BB%, 13.1 IP, 16 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 7 BB, 15 K. Whitten has taken over as the team’s closer this year. He’s improved his control issues from a year ago (22 BB and 5 HBP in 26.1 IP), although still not outstanding, but he’s given up a lot of extra-base hits this year (7 2B and a HR). Has some zip on his FB.
RHP Blake Bales (SO) - 1-0, 0 SV, 4.26 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, .217 OBA, 23.2 K%, 14.3 BB%, 12.2 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 8 BB, 13 K. JUCO transfer from Kellogg CC (MI) where he was absolutely dominant as a freshman (53.1 IP, 31 H, 25 BB, 93 K). He’s a big, strong kid who should get more innings on the mound.
RHP Chesden Harrington (SR) - 1-0, 0 SV, 4.74 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, .346 OBA, 33.7 K%, 4.8 BB%, 19.0 IP, 27 H, 13 R, 10 ER, 4 BB, 28 K. Dude just has a name that screams “Virginia Baseball”. Missed all of 2018 with an injury after being a top bullpen arm in 2017 (2.41 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, .160 OBA in 37.1 IP). Control hasn’t really been an issue (he does have 5 WP), and he’s the best strikeout pitcher on the team, but opponents have just been able to hit him hard when making contact. An absurdly high and unsustainable opponent BABIP (.531) tells you that his numbers will improve.
LHP Riley Wilson (RS-SR) - 0-0, 0 SV, 2.08 ERA, 1.85 WHIP, .194 OBA, 41.5 K%, 24.4 BB%, 8.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 10 BB, 17 K. Missed his entire first two seasons at UVa with injuries. Is a LOOGY (well, a one-inning lefty), with just 42.2 career IP in 43 appearances. Puts up incredible strikeout numbers, but also walks a ton of guys (39 in his career).
Quick! Fun Facts!
Only 26.0 of Virginia’s 226.0 innings pitched on the year have been thrown by left-handed pitchers.
NC State leads the all-time series with Virginia 119-78-1.
Despite having 23 players on their roster from outside of the state of Virginia, the Wahoos only have one player from their neighbor state to the south. That player is FR RHP Sean Kenneally from Morehead City (he hasn’t pitched yet this year).
From an offensive perspective, this is a good matchup for NC State. Virginia, as a team, struggles with issuing walks. NC State, as a team, is great at working walks. The Virginia bullpen is also not their strong suit. Meanwhile, the starting pitching that the Wahoos do have - while very talented - is probably not on par with what NC State has seen from Florida State and Miami over the last two weekends.
From a pitching standpoint, this weekend will be a test for NC State. While Virginia doesn’t draw a ton of walks, they don’t strike out a lot (fewest of any ACC team), and they play a ton of small ball (they lead the ACC in both sacrifice flies and sacrifice bunts, while also wearing a lot of pitches). The Cavaliers aren’t a team that’s going to blast a lot of home runs, but how will the Wolfpack’s pitching and defense hold up against a team that puts a ton of balls in play?
Outcome: State takes the first two games of the series, then gets to a depleted Virginia bullpen on Sunday to pull out a late win for the sweep.