Coming off another postseason appearance as head coach of the Virginia baseball program, three-time ACC Coach of the Year and two-time national coach of the year Brian O'Connor continues to lead Virginia to unparalleled levels of success. Now in his 10th season as head coach of the Cavaliers, O'Connor has built his program into a national power and turned the Cavaliers into one of the hottest tickets in town.
Virginia advanced to its first College World Series in 2009, setting off a remarkable stretch as UVa has recorded 195 wins in the last four years - the second-most wins of any Division I program. In this stretch UVa has made two trips to the College World Series and won three NCAA Regional championships, two ACC tournament titles and two ACC Coastal Division crowns. The Cavaliers have hosted three-consecutive NCAA Regionals, notched a pair of 50-win seasons and spent two stints atop the national polls since 2010.
Record crowds have flocked to UVa's Davenport Field, prompting several stadium expansions to push the stadium seating capacity over 5,000 and meet the rapidly increasing demand. Virginia has ranked among the top 20 nationally in attendance in each of the last three seasons, with more than 110,000 fans crossing through the Davenport Field turnstiles each year.
O'Connor enters the 2013 season with a career record of 411-149-2 and a 166-91-1 (.645) record in ACC play after guiding Virginia to its ninth-consecutive NCAA regional appearance in 2012. Virginia is one of just 10 teams in the nation to earn a berth in the NCAA tournament in each of the last nine seasons, and this success has led to record crowds, excitement and national exposure for Virginia baseball.
O'Connor boasts the third-highest winning percentage of current head coaches (73.4 percent). The 2009 NCBWA and CollegeBaseballInsider.com National Coach of the Year, O'Connor is the second fastest ACC coach to reach 400 career wins. His UVa teams have racked up seven 40-win seasons (39 wins in the other two years) and played host to six NCAA regionals and two NCAA super regionals.
In addition to earning National Coach of the Year honors in 2009, O'Connor also was named the 2006 College Baseball Foundation Coach of the Year. He is a two-time recipient of ABCA Atlantic Region Coach of the Year laurels (2004, 2009) and three-time ACC Coach of the Year honoree (2004, 2010 and 2011).
Forty-eight of O'Connor's Virginia players have been selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, including a school-record nine in 2010 and eight more in 2011. Left-handed pitcher Danny Hultzen was taken second overall in the 2011 MLB Draft by the Seattle Mariners, marking UVa's highest draft pick ever.
Seven former Cavaliers have reached the major leagues after playing for O'Connor, highlighted by Washington Nationals' all-star and Gold Glove third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Mark Reynolds (Arizona/Baltimore), Joe Koshansky (Colorado), Brandon Guyer (Tampa Bay), Michael Schwimer (Philadelphia), Mike Ballard (Baltimore) and Sean Doolittle (Oakland) also have made it to baseball's highest level after playing under O'Connor while at UVa.
In 2005 Zimmerman went on to make one of the quickest jumps ever to the major leagues - two months - and in 2009 became the first former Cavalier to play in the MLB All-Star Game. Reynolds and Koshansky each earned their big league debuts in 2007, while Guyer reached baseball's top level in 2011 with Tampa Bay, as did Schwimer (2005-08) with the Philadelphia Phillies and Ballard (2003-06) with the Baltimore Orioles. Doolittle made his first MLB appearance in June 2012.
Forty Virginia players have nabbed All-ACC honors under O'Connor, including a league-high 22 over the last four. Joe Koshansky (2004) and Sean Doolittle (2006) each have been named ACC Player of the Year, while Danny Hultzen earned ACC Pitcher of the Year honors in 2010 and 2011, becoming the first player to win the award in multiple seasons. In 2009 Hultzen was tabbed ACC Freshman of the Year - also a first in Virginia history.
During O'Connor's tenure, Virginia players have garnered 13 All-America honors, including Hultzen, who was a three-time First-Team All-American, and Doolittle, a two-time All-American. In addition, 11 Cavaliers have been named Freshman All-Americans.
Zimmerman, Doolittle, Thompson and Branden Kline each played on USA Baseball national teams. Zimmerman led the U.S. to the gold medal at the World University Games in 2004, and Doolittle helped the Americans to a gold medal in 2006. Thompson notched a silver medal with Team USA at the 2007 Pan American Games. Kline was a member of the 2011 Collegiate National Team.
Virginia also has succeeded in the classroom. In 2011 the UVa baseball program earned a public recognition award from the NCAA for its multi-year Academic Progress Rate scores. The APR provides a clear picture of the academic culture in each sport. Hultzen was a Capital One First-Team Academic All-American in 2011, while Tyler Wilson was the winner of the esteemed Lowe's Senior CLASS Award for Baseball.
O'Connor's UVa teams have consistently thrived in the pitching game, with UVa posting the lowest ERA in the country since 2005 (3.16). Virginia has ranked in the top 20 in the country in ERA in eight of O'Connor's nine seasons, including the 2011 season when Virginia posted a 2.24 team ERA, which was the lowest in the nation. UVa also boasted No. 3 national ERA rankings in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009.
Virginia's success has spilled over into the community as attendance records have been shattered while the program experiences an unparalleled wave of enthusiasm. While attendance steadily improved during O'Connor's first six years, it has skyrocketed the past three seasons. Over 110,000 fans filed came to Davenport Field in each of the last three seasons as UVa ranked among the nation's top 20 in attendance each year. Virginia has added bleacher seats to Davenport Field on four separate occasions since 2010.
UVa has ranked among the top 40 in the nation in total home attendance and average home attendance in all nine years of O'Connor's tenure. Virginia finished a multi-million dollar stadium renovation in the spring of 2010, pushing Davenport Field among the elite in college baseball facilities.
The Cavaliers also have become a fixture in the national polls, highlighted by UVa's first-ever No. 1 ranking in 2010. Virginia was ranked No. 1 by Baseball America for 12 weeks during the 2010 season and sat atop the polls for a dozen more weeks in 2011.
Much of this success is a result of Virginia's stellar recruiting classes, which have been the most highly-touted groups to ever sign with Virginia. Seven of the first eight recruiting classes brought in by O'Connor and his staff have ranked among the nation's Top 20 - 2004 (12th), 2005 (10th), 2006 (8th), 2007 (13th), 2008 (14th), 2009 (9th), 2011 (8th).
Virginia played host to its sixth regional in nine years in 2012 while going 39-19-1 and earning a second-place finish in the ACC Coastal Division. Branden Kline, Justin Thompson and Keith Werman each were named to the All-ACC team, while Derek Fisher was a unanimous selection as a freshman All-American. UVa sold a record number of season tickets prior to the season.
Virginia had its most prolific season in 2011, setting a program record with 56 victories, earning the No. 1 national seed in the NCAA Tournament and advancing to its second College World Series while winning ACC Tournament and Coastal Division championships. UVa went 56-12 and won its third straight NCAA regional title before taking the super regional against UC Irvine after a dramatic ninth-inning rally in Game 3. The Cavaliers then posted two wins at the CWS before eventual national champion South Carolina eliminated UVa in a 13-inning contest.
While UVa's pitching staff ranked first nationally in ERA, the Cavaliers also set a school record with a .978 fielding percentage and ranked among the top 20 nationally in batting. Seven Cavaliers were named All-ACC, with four claiming All-America honors -Hultzen, Kline, John Hicks and Will Roberts. The fan base continued to rally around the team as UVa averaged a program-best 3,298 fans per game (125,355 total).
In 2010, the Cavaliers posted a 51-14 record, setting a then-school record for wins in a season as well as ACC wins in a year (23). Record crowds packed Davenport Field, leading to seating expansions on three separate occasions. Virginia averaged 3,148 fans per game, shattering the previous record by nearly 1,400 fans per game.
Virginia also earned its first-ever No. 1 national ranking in 2010 and held that distinction for 12 weeks during the season. The Cavaliers were a national seed in the NCAA tournament for the first time, with a No. 5 seed. UVa led the conference in batting (.331) for the second straight year and set school records in runs (525), doubles (160), triples (32) and total bases (1166). The Cavaliers also finished seventh nationally in fielding percentage with a then-school record mark of .977. In addition, a record seven Cavaliers were named to the All-ACC team, while Kevin Arico, Hultzen and Phil Gosselin also earned All-America honors.
In 2009, O'Connor guided Virginia to the program's first College World Series berth while capturing the school's third ACC championship and first regional and super regional crowns on the road to Omaha. Despite featuring a team with 23 underclassmen, the Cavaliers set 11 team records, including hits (767), runs (507) and strikeouts (593), while posting a 49-15-1 mark. Five players earned first-team All-ACC honors, with Hultzen and Parker each gleaning All-America laurels.
After a strong regular season, Virginia caught fire in the postseason, winning the ACC Baseball Championship with victories over Clemson, North Carolina, Duke and Florida State in consecutive days. UVa then traveled to the NCAA Irvine Regional and impressively topped San Diego State and soon-to-be MLB No. 1 draft pick Stephen Strasburg before shutting down top-ranked UC Irvine twice on its home field to win the regional crown. The next week, the Cavaliers rebounded from an opening-game loss to Ole Miss to win the final two contests of the NCAA Oxford Super Regional in front of hostile crowds to take the super regional title and earn a berth in the College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium.
While UVa advanced to the College World Series for the first time in 2009, the process of reaching Omaha started six years prior. O'Connor was named the head baseball coach at Virginia on July 8, 2003, and he and his staff wasted no time in propelling the program to new heights.
In O'Connor's first season as head coach, the Cavaliers recorded a 44-15 overall record, 18-6 mark in the ACC and second-place ACC finish. The 18 wins were the most ever by a Cavalier team in league play at the time, and for the first time in school history, Virginia played host to an NCAA regional. Virginia swept five three-game series over conference foes, including a three-game sweep over Georgia Tech in Atlanta for the first time in school history. The Cavaliers also swept Clemson in three games for the first time since 1972.
UVa racked up another 40-win season in 2005, going 41-20 overall and 14-14 in the ACC. As the No. 7 seed in the ACC tournament, the Cavaliers went to the championship by knocking off three ranked opponents, including two wins over Clemson and a triumph over NC State. UVa posted nine wins over ranked opponents, including a three-game sweep of No. 4 Georgia Tech, which was UVa's second straight regular-season sweep of the Yellow Jackets. The Cavaliers led the ACC in team ERA (2.74) for the second straight year.
O'Connor's 2006 squad set a then-school record with 47 wins on its way to a 47-15 mark, including 21 conference wins. UVa finished third overall in the ACC and just one game behind division champion North Carolina while playing host to an NCAA Regional. Four players were named All-ACC, led by Doolittle, who was the ACC Player of the Year. Four Cavalier freshmen were named Freshman All-Americans, tied for the most in the nation.
In 2007, Virginia boasted a 45-16 record and 19-9 mark in the ACC en route to a second-place finish in the ACC Coastal Division. The Cavaliers played host to an NCAA Regional and bowed out in the championship to eventual national champion Oregon State. Five Cavaliers earned All-ACC honors, while Jacob Thompson was a consensus first-team All-American and Doolittle earned second-team All-America laurels. UVa led the league and was third in the nation in ERA (2.81), led by Thompson with a league-best 1.50 mark. The Cavaliers also posted series wins at then No. 1-North Carolina and Clemson - UVa's first series win ever at Clemson.
In 2008, Virginia reached the ACC Championship game and earned a fifth straight NCAA Regional bid. The Cavaliers went 39-23 overall and 15-15 in the ACC, and steadily improved throughout the season, catching fire in the ACC Baseball Championship, where they defeated No. 1 North Carolina and No. 4 Florida State in successive games. Michael Schwimer earned All-America honors, while Greg Miclat and Pat McAnaney nabbed all-conference laurels.
PRIOR TO VIRGINIA
O'Connor brought a wealth of baseball experience to Charlottesville when he arrived. He came to Virginia after spending nine seasons at Notre Dame (1995-2003) under current LSU coach Paul Mainieri, for whom he served as an assistant coach from 1995-2001 before earning a promotion to associate head coach in 2001. O'Connor was named the 2001 National Assistant Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association and Baseball America and was AFLAC National Assistant Coach of the Year in 2003.
While at Notre Dame, O'Connor worked with the Fighting Irish pitchers and served as the program's recruiting coordinator. As Notre Dame's recruiting coordinator, he led the effort that landed a nine-member group ranked as the No. 1 recruiting class in the country in 2001, as well as the sixth-ranked recruiting class in 2003 according to Baseball America.
During O'Connor's nine years at Notre Dame, the Irish compiled an overall record of 399-160-1 (.713), won six conference championships and made six trips to the NCAA Tournament. His last three Notre Dame teams were among the most successful in the school's history. The Irish compiled an overall record of 45-18 in 2003, won the Big East Conference Championship and advanced to the NCAA tournament. In 2002, Notre Dame had an overall record of 50-18, won the Big East Championship and advanced to the College World Series. The 2001 Irish team was 49-13-1, ranked No. 1 in the nation at midseason and played in the NCAA tournament.
O'Connor, who pitched on Creighton's 1991 College World Series team, tutored 17 eventual professional baseball pitchers, including 13 Major League Draft selections, at Notre Dame. He has a proven track record of developing pitchers into top-level prospects, including a pair of first-round selections - Brad Lidge in 1998 and Aaron Heilman in 2001 - who weren't even drafted in the first 40 rounds coming out of high school (Lidge was a 42nd-round pick, Heilman a 55th-rounder).
A native of Council Bluffs, Iowa, O'Connor is a 1993 graduate of Creighton University. As a pitcher on the Creighton baseball team under then-CU head coach and current Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, O'Connor posted a career record of 20-13 with seven saves and a 3.78 ERA. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in marketing, O'Connor was selected in the 29th round of the Major League Baseball draft by the Philadelphia Phillies. He notched a 4-2 record with a 4.03 earned run average for Martinsville (Va.) of the Appalachian Class-A League in 1993 before accepting a position as pitching coach at Creighton.
O'Connor is married to the former Cindy Petratis. The couple has three children - two daughters, Ellie and Maggie, and a son, Dillon.