2014 Baseball Season Outlook

VIRGINIASPORTSDOTCOM
Nick Howard

VIRGINIASPORTSDOTCOM
Nick Howard
VIRGINIASPORTSDOTCOM

Feb. 11, 2014

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Depth Throughout Roster
This is one of Brian O'Connor's deepest teams in his 11 seasons as Virginia's head coach. Twenty-two letterwinners, including eight position starters, return to form one of the most experienced and versatile rosters in the nation.

Starting pitchers Brandon Waddell and Nick Howard also return after comprising two-thirds of the UVa weekend rotation last year. Eight members of a stout bullpen are back in the mix as well.

Virginia also welcomes in a freshman class of nine players ranked as the 14th-best nationally by Baseball America.

Outfield Returns In Tact
Virginia returns its four starting outfielders from 2013 - Brandon Downes, Derek Fisher, Joe McCarthy and Mike Papi. All four started at least 47 games last season. Downes, Fisher and Papi all are preseason All-Americans in 2014.

Papi was a First-Team All-American last year after winning the ACC batting crown with a .381 average.

McCarthy (.336 BA, 4 HR, 51 RBI) was the 2013 ACC Freshman of the Year and earned Freshman All-America honors last year. He and Papi each are options at first base in place of Jared King, who graduated last year.

 

 

Downes recorded team highs in hits (80), doubles (20), home runs (10) and RBI (59) while batting cleanup and patrolling center field.

Fisher batted .293 while swatting seven homers and driving in 48 runs last year. Sophomore Robert Bennie played in 13 games in his first year and joins freshman Tyler Allen and junior D.J. Hill as further outfield options.

Infield Pieces Back, but Where Do They Fit?
Virginia returns the left side of its infield with shortstop Branden Cogswell and third basemen Nick Howard and Kenny Towns, but must replace the right side of first baseman Jared King and second baseman Reed Gragnani.

Cogswell could see time at shortstop or second base, while Howard and Towns also could play at first base. John La Prise saw limited action as a freshman, but is coming off a terrific summer in which he won the batting title and hit .407 in the Northwoods Summer League.

A pair of talented freshmen also are aiming to work their way into the lineup - Daniel Pinero at shortstop and Tony Butler at second or third. Junior Thomas Woodruff also gives the Cavaliers depth across the infield.

Options Behind Plate
Virginia enters the season with three strong catchers at its disposal. Two-year starter Nate Irving returns with 105 career starts under his belt. Robbie Coman played in nine games during an injury-plagued freshman year but is expected to be a big contributor in 2014.

Freshman Matt Thaiss was the team's top hitter during the fall season, showing an advanced approach from the left side of the plate.

Grinding Out At Bats
Virginia boasted one of the nation's top offenses last year, with much of that coming because of its patient approach at the plate.

Three Cavaliers ranked among the top 50 nationally in on base percentage last year - Mike Papi (second, .517), Joe McCarthy (37th (.469) and Branden Cogswell (46th, .464).

UVa owned a .408 team on base percentage last year.

No Free 90s
Virginia prides itself on not giving easy passes to potential baserunners, and that was never more evident than in 2013.

UVa pitchers ranked sixth nationally in fewest walks per nine innings (2.36) and were second to Cal State Fullerton in strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.38).

The Cavaliers also hit the fourth-fewest batters of any team in the country, plunking just 29 batters in 62 games.

Veterans Comprise Bulk of Pitching Staff
Virginia returns 11 pitchers from its 2013 roster, including eight who pitched at least 30 innings in the 2012 or 2013 seasons.

UVa brings back a pair of weekend starters, Brandon Waddell and Nick Howard. Primarily UVa's Friday starter in 2013, Waddell went 6-3 with a 3.96 ERA in 88 2/3 innings. While balancing his time at third base, Howard also was the Cavaliers' main Sunday starter and went 6-4 with a 3.38 ERA in 61 1/3 innings.

Six key members of the bullpen also are back. Sophomore Josh Sborz worked 50 innings last year with a 1.98 ERA as a reliever and starter, and could see time in either role again this year.

A trio of seniors, Whit Mayberry, Austin Young and Artie Lewicki, give UVa valuable experience and depth. Mayberry (4-0, 2.45, 51 1/3 IP) and Young (5-0, 2.25, 32 IP) were two of the Cavaliers' primary relievers in 2013. Lewicki was limited to two games in 2013 after rehabbing from offseason elbow surgery but was UVa's top pitcher at the end of 2012 and is expected to play a large role this year.

Left-handers Nathan Kirby and David Rosenberger also are back for their sophomore seasons. Kirby (4-1, 6.06, 32 2/3 IP) is expected to vie for a rotation slot, while Rosenberger (3-0, 1.38, 32 2/3 IP) will be a mainstay out of the bullpen.

Kevin Doherty, Cameron Tekker and Brett Lisle all showed improvement during the fall season and also could contribute innings.

Freshman Pitchers Will Challenge for Innings
A talented crop of freshman pitchers give Virginia a wealth of options and depth on the mound. Virginia's reigning state player of the year, Connor Jones, could be an immediate factor in a starting or relief role, as could fellow right-hander Jack Roberts.

Alec Bettinger and Ben Carraway each are right-handed options for the Cavaliers, while Adam Bleday provides UVa with another left-handed possibility.

Preseason No. 1
For the first time in program history, Virginia was ranked No. 1 in the preseason by Baseball America and Perfect Game. UVa's previous best preseason ranking was No. 2 prior to the 2010 season.

UVa earned No. 1 rankings during the 2010 and 2011 seasons.

Five Cavaliers earned preseason All-America honors from at least one media outlet - Cogswell, Downes, Fisher, Howard and Papi.

O'Connor Third Among Active Coaches in Win Pct., 13th All-Time
Virginia head coach Brian O'Connor is 411-149-2 (.734) in nine seasons at the helm of the Cavaliers. O'Connor's 73.4 percent winning percentage ranks third among active Division I head coaches behind only North Carolina's Mike Fox (.747), Florida State's Mike Martin (.743).

O'Connor also ranks 13th all-time in career winning percentage among all coaches with at least 10 years of head coaching experience.

Most Wins Since 2009
With 245 victories since the start of the 2009 season, Virginia owns the most wins of any team in the nation in that span.

The Cavaliers have won 50 games or more three times in the last four seasons.

Record Demand and Season Ticket Sales
Virginia has sold a record number of season tickets as it enters the 2014 campaign, continuing the trend of Cavalier fans making Davenport Field a primary spring destination.

More than 110,000 fans have attended Virginia games each of the past four seasons as UVa has ranked among the top 20 programs nationally in attendance each of the last three years.

UVa ranked 11th nationally in total attendance (124,374) and 16th in average attendance (3,189) last year.

Davenport Field will seat 5,025 per game this year, slightly up this year after the addition of The Clubhouse, a reserved club in left-center field. The entire reserved section in the grandstand is sold out again this year.

2014 Schedule Details
Virginia is slated to play 55 games in 2014, including 22 contests against 10 teams that qualified for the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Thirty-four of the games will comes against teams that won at least 30 games a year ago.

UVa has home series on the docket against North Carolina (2013 CWS), Clemson, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech (Regionals), East Carolina, Boston College and Monmouth.

In addition the UNC Wilmington tournament featuring the hosts, Kentucky and VMI, the Cavaliers have road series at Florida State (Super Regionals), Miami (Regionals), Duke, Pitt and Wake Forest.

With the addition of Pitt and Notre Dame to the ACC this year, UVa will not play three league foes in conference play: Maryland, NC State and Notre Dame.