CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Everyone in Charlottesville knows that once spring rolls around the whole community’s attention is centered on one thing–UVA baseball. Maybe it is the visual appeal of the warm sun shining down on the well-kept Davenport field. Maybe it is the homey, good old American ballgame atmosphere. Maybe it’s the intense camaraderie fans have with other schools or the endless publicity from the media. Regardless of the reason, every Charlottesville resident is ready for UVA Baseball to take off this spring.
The Hoos will begin their spring season this weekend in South Carolina at the Charleston Crabhouse Shootout Tournament where they will face Liberty, The Citadel, and Kansas. The team is eager to get back on the field and begin its extensive journey towards the NCAA National Championship in June.
At the conclusion of their 2016 season, the Cavaliers said goodbye to some pivotal players including Matt Thaiss (catcher, Los Angeles Angels) and Connor Jones (pitcher, St. Louis Cardinals). Although UVA lost some great players last season, the team still has an arsenal of returning veterans such as Ernie Clement, Pavin Smith and Adam Haseley–all of whom are expected to make big contributions this season. Returning from injuries, second years Jake McCarthy (outfielder) and Evan Sperling (pitcher) are two players who are also going to be vital members of this year’s squad.
The Hoos have had a long preseason and are fervent to swing into their spring season. I was fortunate enough to talk with a couple of the players on Tuesday and they told me some of the key points that Coach O’Connor has been preaching to his team all preseason in preparation for this weekend.
The first, second year Chesdin Harrington (pitcher) told me, is that Coach O’Connor wants his team to come out of the gate hard. Last year, the Hoos started off very strong, but hit a lull when they lost 4 consecutive games the last weekend in March. Harrington says an important element to the success of this 2017 season is to start off winning, and continue winning all season long.
The second focus point, second year Daniel Lynch (pitcher) shared with me, is that the team has been focusing intently on perfecting the minor details. Like any sport, a mastery of the basics is something Coach O’Connor has been stressing for his team since the start of preseason, and is something he continues to stress going into this weekend. Some of these details include throwing accuracy, pitching speed, and batting form.
The last point of emphasis Coach O’Connor has been hitting on hard is team chemistry. With ten new freshmen joining the squad this season, the young Hoos are going to have to adapt quickly to the intensity and framework of the team in order to give UVA a successful season. Third year Riley Wilson (pitcher) assured me that this freshman class is extremely talented and that they are very prepared for the grueling season ahead.
The Hoos ended their 2016 season with a winning record of 38-22. If the team sticks to focusing on Coach O’Connor’s main points there is no doubt in any Wahoo fan’s mind that this WILL be our year. The journey starts this weekend–let’s play ball!