Monday, June 6, 2011

weekend review, but mostly baseball review

More so than most sports, baseball is a game of mantras, and every coach has one that they drill into their players' heads so hard they'll be muttering it on their deathbeds.  A favorite one tends to boil down to: don't fuck around with two outs.  Boy if there's one thing that drives coaches to distraction it's two-out walks.  In the future if the baseball coaches at ECU, St. John's, or the USNA want to illustrate the dangers of playing with fire after two outs, this weekend is all they'll need.

UVA flat dominated the weekend, and when two outs were recorded against them, they had the opposition right where they wanted 'em.  The beatings only got harder as the weekend advanced: a 6-0 complete-game shutout by Will Roberts over Navy; 10-2 dismantling of St. John's the next day, and then to wrap up the weekend, 13-1 over ECU to leave no doubts about who'd be going to the super-regional.  For the arithmetically challenged and the philosophy majors, that's outscoring the opposition 29-3, and 23 of those 29 runs came with two outs already on the board and that doesn't count 1-out sac flies.

UVA's hitters piled up 41 hits for a .366 batting average on the weekend, and the pitchers allowed three runs and held opposing hitters to .189.  The impressive thing: 42 strikeouts, which means over half the outs earned by UVA pitchers were K's.  That's actually not very efficient - strikeouts tend to use a lot more pitches than groundouts - but it helps explain the only three runs.  It's safe to say that not many teams had a better weekend than UVA did.  (Of course, theoretically nobody had an easier tournament draw, but that's what you earn for being the only team with not even ten losses yet.)  And just for the cherry on top, the win over ECU yesterday was the 52nd of the season, which is a new UVA record.  With Danny Hultzen setting the single-season K record, it was that kind of weekend.

Ah, but as good as the weekend was in Charlottesville - beautiful baseball weather, hitters hitting, pitchers dominating - it was improved even more by the events three time zones and a country away.  UVA was set to take on UCLA in the super-regionals, which would've been interesting because UCLA can't hit the ball off a tee but has two pitchers whose names will be called in the top five picks of the MLB draft tonight.  The Friday afternoon 1-4 seed matchups produced five shutouts, as you'd expect, but one involved the lowly four seed flipping the script and shutting down the one seed.  That was UCLA, courtesy of the San Francisco Dons.  Forced to fight out of the loser's bracket, UCLA ended up losing again on Sunday in a bottom-of-the-ninth rally by UC-Irvine, sending the 3rd-seeded Anteaters to Charlottesville instead of Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer.

Yup, Irvine.  You remember IrvineDon't tell me you don't.  Two years ago, Irvine hosted the dumbest regional ever put together by Tim Weiser and his tournament committee, bringing UVA to California to face the tournament's 6 seed (winning the ACC championship was not widely expected to give UVA hosting duties but it was supposed to give us a reasonable travel itinerary) and, before we could even get to Irvine in all their sixth-seeded glory, San Diego State's Stephen Strasburg would bring his triple-digit radar readings to bear against UVA hitters.  Adding insult to insult, the ESPN announcers** spent both UVA-Irvine games prattling on about "Irvine Baseball" which was apparently a Serious Way Of Life or something because the announcers never let the score (which climbed steadily higher in favor of UVA throughout both games) get in the way of the story.  They finally got around to facing the extinction of Irvine Baseball in the ninth inning of the regional championship game by acknowledging that Virginia could play a little Irvine Baseball too.

So Tim Weiser and Irvine Baseball entered the collective consciousness of UVA baseball fans in one glorious weekend, and now it's time for Round 2, this time in the super-regionals and at Davenport Field instead of Anteater Ballpark.  I'm not sure this qualifies as a rivalry per se, but any time you can bring up old storylines and memories (good ones in our case, bad, revengey ones in Irvine's) it brings the spice of one.  We're deprived of Danny Hultzen vs. Gerrit Cole and Tyler Wilson vs. Trevor Bauer, but this should be just as fun.

**The plus side of playing in the deathiest, doomiest regional in modern history was that UVA got the only ESPN cameras of the weekend, or maybe one of only two, which, OK, the announcers grated like knives on a chalkboard, but Watching The Game is always better than Not Watching The Game.  The baseball tournament is slowly but surely emerging from the dark ages, with more ESPN games on TV, and a number of streaming video options too.  The number of regionals you can watch live without having to follow little cones around a stock diamond is up from about one-eighth to one-half, which is Progress.

Anyway, UVA is headed to the super-regionals for the third time in a row (and third time in school history) and hoping for the second CWS trip in school history as well.  It'd be fairly disappointing not to get there, you know, being the tourney's #1 seed and all, but you really have to like the odds.  Friendly stadium and run-of-the-mill decent pitchers instead of major leaguers that haven't quite burned up their college eligibility.  I'll take it.

The rest of the weekend wasn't so bad either....

- On Thursday, Steele Stanwick picked himself up a little Tewaaraton Trophy action.  As a UVA fan that's friggin' awesome.  If it were anyone else I might say "hmm."  What the voters just made abundantly clear is that they absolutely give a shit that you have some postseason success, and not getting to the Final Four is basically disqualifying.  Any questions about that (and they did exist) are dispelled.  UVA has now won the Tewaaraton in every year of the award's existence when UVA also won the national title (and only when we win the national title) - three times now, with Matt Ward and Chris Rotelli as UVA's other winners.  No school has won the men's award more, but Syracuse also has three winners.

- Oh, and speaking of Danny Hultzen, tonight's his big night.  Top five pick in the draft, and if he slips any further it's because of signability or insanity.  (There's a reason most of the teams in the top of the draft are picking up there, and usually it's because they don't always know what they're doing.)  I hope this tournament run lasts a while because I will definitely miss having the best damn pitcher in college baseball, not to mention that filthy disgusting hat.

- This was supposed to be a fairly big junior day weekend for Mike London's recruiting efforts, but half the crew bailed on him.  The weekend earned a commitment from defensive end Max Valles, so it wasn't a total loss, but frankly it was otherwise a huge dud.  Everyone had an excuse not to be there.  In the past I've been waving the optimism flag but with so many cancellations on what should've been one of the bigger weekends of the summer, it's hard not to look at the recruiting board and see defensive ends coming out of our ears and not much else.

Speaking of which, that's updated now.  Because there's not much motion and because of the Cavalier of the Year profiles starting tomorrow, the board doesn't get its own post this week, but the commitment means it has to get some kind of attention.  So, for posterity's sake:

- Added DE Max Valles to orange.

- Removed QB Tyler O'Connor from yellow.  He dropped everyone but Michigan State and Northwestern.  Big Ten all the way, I guess.  I'd say it's maybe 50/50 we land a QB this year, at best, but it's not a huge need.  Get one next year and we're just fine.


Anonymous said...

Come on, Irvine is a quality team, so show some respect. Or it might just bite you is the ass.

Anonymous said...

Where exactly did he disrespect Irvine? Maybe you should read the post again.

Anonymous said...

"before we could even get to Irvine in all their sixth-seeded glory"

Brendan said...

That's what you took as disrespectful?

If you'd seen me when I'm actually disrespectful toward other teams, you'd know that's not what it looks like when I do it.