Thursday, June 11, 2009

FOV Cavalier of the Year, #7/#8

First some quick baseball links as the CWS approaches. Excited?

There are previews at the ACC Sports Journal (a UVA-only page, that one) and Baseball America (for the whole field, but very favorable indeed toward the Hoos), and a quasi-preview chat at ESPN.

Congratulations are also in order to the five Cavaliers drafted in the MLB draft this week:

- Andrew Carraway in the 12th round to the Mariners
- Jeff Lorick in the 20th round to the Braves
- Robert Poutier in the 29th round to the Padres
- Matt Packer in the 32nd round to the Indians
- Tyler Cannon in the 41st round to the Pirates

You have to figure the juniors (that's Lorick, Packer, and Cannon) will take their chances and come back for another year. Especially Packer, who would probably have gone at least twice as high if he'd been eligible last year.

OK - the standard blurb, then on to the next two finalists.

The official From Old Virginia Birthday is June 10, at which time this blog marks its first year of publication. For the birthday celebration, we - that is, me, and you the readers - will name the FOV Cavalier of the Year. My job is to pick the twelve finalists and write a few words about each that tell you all about their accomplishments. Your job is easier: to vote in the poll that will run once all twelve are finished.

Two of the finalists will be highlighted each day this week, through Saturday. They're in random order with no rhyme or reason implied or intended. Today: Matt McLean and Danny Hultzen.

Matt McLean - Men's swimming - Distance freestyle

Team accomplishments:

- 10th ACC championship in 11 years
- 9th place finish at NCAA championships (best finish ever)

Personal accomplishments:

- First swimmer in ACC history to earn ACC Championship MVP two years in a row
- Third place and All-American finish at NCAA championships in 500-yard freestyle
- Three honorable mention All-American finishes at NCAA championships
- Broke four individual and relay ACC records at championship meet

Like the women, the men also have the ACC wrapped around their pinky finger in the pool. Matt McLean and Mei Christensen bring a little bit of a different talent set to the starting blocks; Christensen is a multi-stroke star, McLean owns all the distance races. The results are the same, though: medals, and lots of 'em. Distance swimmers like to point out how many yards they swim at a meet as compared to sprinters, and it ought to be noted that McLean swam over three miles at the ACC championships and, having set records in pretty much all his events, did it faster than anyone in the ACC - ever. Having made plenty of history in the pool, he capped it off with one more bit of history: the first swimmer to earn ACC championship meet MVP two years in a row, which is impressive enough without me having to mention that he's only a sophomore. But I did anyway.

Danny Hultzen - Baseball - P/1B

Team accomplishments:

- Advanced to College World Series (and maybe later on we'll be able to say better, yes?)
- ACC champions
- Undefeated at ACC tournament and at NCAA regional
- 48 wins (and counting) is highest total in team history
- Last team in the nation to lose a game

Personal accomplishments:

- ACC Freshman of the Year
- NCBWA Freshman All-American and second team All-American
- Named to USA Baseball National Team Trials
- ACC Pitcher of the Week after striking out 13 against TFSU
- Leads team in IP with 86, ERA among eligible pitchers at 2.09, and wins with a 9-1 record
- Batting .333; perfect on 8-of-8 steal attempts

If you don't know by now that this is the best baseball season UVA has ever achieved, then you never cared much about it to begin with. And they've done it without a lot of real star power. There's no Stephen Strasburg or Dustin Ackley. That said, there will be real star power in a couple years when Danny Hultzen has grown up a bit. Even now he's the one bringing in all the honors, and there are certainly a lot of honors. But there's a bit of that Sylven Landesberg loyalty to the school, too, which is more than admirable. See, Hultzen was a draft prospect out of high school. A big-time draft prospect. Like, top five rounds. Maybe first round. He chose college instead, and went out of his way to tell major-league teams he wanted that college experience. Even then, he was taken in the 10th round. Hultzen would be a millionaire and pitching, probably, at the very least in high-A ball right now, maybe AA, had he spurned UVA, and few would blame him. Instead he's in Omaha right now, and it's a safe bet neither he nor his teammates would be if he'd gone pro out of high school.

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