Images from UVa's run through College World Series and to the national title
After leading the Virginia baseball program to its first NCAA Championship in 2015, five-time ACC Coach of the Year and three-time national coach of the year Brian O'Connor reached yet another new level of success with the Cavaliers. Now in his 13th season as head coach of the Cavaliers, O'Connor has built his program into a college baseball powerhouse and turned Virginia Baseball into a national brand.
The numbers during O'Connor's first 12 years are staggering:
2015 NCAA Champions
Four College World Series appearances and two CWS Finals berths
12 straight NCAA tournament appearances
Seven NCAA regional championships
Two ACC championships
Four 50-win seasons
558 wins, including a NCAA-best 342 wins since 2009
O'Connor enters the 2016 season with a career record of 558-201-2 and a 225-122-1 record in ACC play after guiding Virginia to the 2015 NCAA Championship as part of the program's 12th-consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. Virginia is one of just six programs in the nation to earn a berth in the NCAA tournament in each of the last 12 seasons. This success has led to record crowds, excitement and national exposure for Virginia baseball.
O'Connor boasts highest winning percentage of all current head coaches in Division I baseball (74.3 percent). A three-time National Coach of the Year, O'Connor is the second fastest ACC coach to reach 500 career wins. His UVa teams have racked up 10 40-win seasons and played host to eight NCAA regionals and four NCAA super regionals.
Cavalier fans have flocked to UVa's Davenport Field in increasing, record numbers during the O'Connor tenure, prompting several stadium expansions to push the stadium seating capacity over 5,000 in order to meet the rapidly intensifying demand. Virginia has ranked among the top 20 nationally in attendance in each of the last six seasons, including a program-best 142,496 fans in 2014 as UVa finished 11th in attendance. More than 110,000 fans have passed through the Davenport Field turnstiles in five of the last six years since 2010.
UVa has ranked among the top 40 in the nation in total home attendance and average home attendance in all 12 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.
O'Connor was named the National Coach of the Year in 2015 by Collegiate Baseball and Perfect Game, marking the third year he has earned such an honor. He was tabbed the 2009 NCBWA and CollegeBaseballInsider.com National Coach of the Year and also was named the 2006 College Baseball Foundation Coach of the Year. He is a five-time recipient of ABCA Atlantic Region Coach of the Year laurels (2004, 2009, 2011, 2014, 2015) and five-time ACC Coach of the Year honoree (2004, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014).
Sixty-six of O'Connor's Virginia players have been selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, including 39 in the last six years. 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. Three Cavaliers were selected in the first round in 2014, the most of any program in the country.
Thirteen 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 (Cleveland), Joe Koshansky (Colorado), Brandon Guyer (Tampa Bay), Michael Schwimer (Toronto), Mike Ballard (Baltimore), Sean Doolittle (Oakland), David Adams (New York Yankees), Phil Gosselin (Atlanta), Kyle Crockett (Cleveland), Chris Taylor (Seattle), Jarrett Parker (San Francisco) and Tyler Wilson (Baltimore) 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. In 2014 Crockett became the first player from the 2013 MLB Draft to reach the big leagues. Doolittle became the first former Cavalier pitcher to appear in the MLB All-Star Game in 2014.
Fifty-eight Virginia players have nabbed All-ACC honors under O'Connor, including a league-high 40 over the last six seasons. Joe Koshansky (2004) and Sean Doolittle (2006) each were named ACC Player of the Year. Danny Hultzen earned ACC Pitcher of the Year honors in 2010 and 2011, while Nathan Kirby claimed the distinction in 2014. In 2009 Hultzen was tabbed ACC Freshman of the Year, and Joe McCarthy earned the award in 2013.
During O'Connor's tenure, Virginia players have garnered 21 All-America honors, including Hultzen, who was a three-time First-Team All-American, and Doolittle and Papi, each two-time All-Americans. In addition, 15 Cavaliers have claimed Freshman All-America distinction.
Zimmerman, Doolittle, Thompson, Branden Kline and Matt Thaiss 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. Thaiss competed on the 2015 team.
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 for a dozen more weeks in 2011. UVa reached the top of the polls again in 2014, spending 13 weeks at No. 1, and in 2015.
Virginia has succeeded in the classroom as well. 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 in 2011.
O'Connor stresses the importance of pitching, defense and fundamentals. UVa teams have thrived in the pitching game, with the Cavaliers posting the second lowest ERA in the country since 2005 (3.08). Virginia has ranked in the top 20 nationally in ERA in nine of O'Connor's 12 seasons, including six top-three marks. The 2011 team led the nation with a 2.24 ERA, while the 2014 squad was second nationally at 2.23.
Defensively, the Cavaliers also have shined under O'Connor. UVa owns the best fielding percentage in the ACC since his arrival in 2004 (.973). Eight of his 12 teams have ranked among the nation's top 40 in fielding percentage. The 2014 Cavaliers set the program record for fielding percentage with a .981 mark, which ranked fourth nationally.
Virginia had one of the best years in program history in 2014, culminating with the program's first trip to the College World Series Finals. UVa posted a 53-16 record - its fourth 50-win season in the last five years - and won the Charlottesville Regional and Super Regional en route to its third trip to Omaha in the last six seasons. As the tournament's No. 3 national seed, UVa won four games at the CWS in reaching the CWS championship game. Nathan Kirby earned First-Team All-America honors and was tabbed the Co-ACC Pitcher of the Year; he also was one of a record eight Cavaliers named to the All-ACC Team.
Pitching and defense propelled the Cavaliers, as UVa recorded the second-lowest ERA in program history (2.23) and the best fielding percentage in the school annals (.981). UVa ranked second nationally in ERA and fourth in fielding. Nick Howard set an ACC record with 20 saves and then was selected in the first round of the MLB Draft, one of eight Cavaliers to be drafted in 2014. Howard and Mike Papi joined Kirby as 2014 All-Americans.
Virginia went 50-12 in 2013 while playing host to an NCAA regional and super regional. UVa led the ACC in batting (.314) and ranked second nationally in runs (489) and third in scoring (7.9). Papi was named a First-Team All-American while becoming UVa's first ACC batting champion since 1981. Kyle Crockett was tabbed a Third-Team All-American and finished his career with the second-lowest ERA in UVa history (1.98). Outfielder Joe McCarthy posted the highest batting average for a UVa freshman in 29 years and was tabbed the ACC Freshman of the Year and a Freshman All-American; he also was one of a league-high six Cavaliers on the All-ACC Team.
UVa played host to a regional in in 2012, 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.
Virginia set a program record with 56 victories in 2011, 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 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 recorded a .978 fielding percentage - at the time, a school record - 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, 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 four wins in as many 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 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 former 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 ERA 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.