Tuesday, May 21, 2013

weekend review

Of the big four sports played in North America, as well as some of the next-tier ones like soccer and lacrosse, baseball is easily the most structured.  That's why it lends itself so well to advanced statistics.  That's also why it's the most prone to bizarrity; in a more free-flowing game like hockey or basketball, there's less of a structure to break free of, which means there's less opportunity for something nutty to happen.  And usually when it does, it's because of the officials.

So you get games like Saturday's against UNC.  It's impressive how fast a pitchers' duel turned into a slugfest.  Whit Mayberry did a great job in five innings of starting, needing only about 60 pitches and moving very efficiently.  Nathan Kirby was great for two innings; unfortunately, he pitched in three, with the wheels coming off in the eighth.  (He wasn't the only one, though; the boys in Carolina blue fell apart at exactly the same time.  And I was impressed in the confidence the coaches put in Kirby, having him pitch through some tough situations in a very tight game.)

Thankfully, UVA scoring runs and then UNC giving them back wasn't the ultimate story.  Carolina boneheadedness was.  UVA's 11th-inning rally started to bear fruit when UNC tried to get the lead runner at third on a sacrifice bunt, and Colin Moran biffed the throw, which of course moved everyone up a bag.  That's how the 11th started; it ended when Skye Bolt hit a deep drive that Mike Papi caught against the wall (saving at least a double), and for whatever reason, the pinch-runner on first never tagged up.  He was nowhere to be found when the ball arrived back at the base to double him off and polish off the game.

You can argue for a while whose fault that was (and we have, believe me) but since none of the replays show where he ended up, it's all speculation.  My guess: he came in thinking there were two outs (there was one) and that Papi's catch was the end of the inning.  And therefore went tearing around the basepaths at the crack of the bat with home plate on the mind.  If that's the case, I blame the first-base coach; I mean, I used to kind of internally roll my eyes in my baseball playing days, when I'd reach first and the coach there would remind me how many outs.  But there's a reason they do that.  I doubt it happened this time.

So with Thursday's game being a carryover of the scorching-bat attack from the Duke series and the VCU midweek game, and UVA scoring 10 runs on Carolina's ace Kent Emanuel (the more-than-heavy implication on the Sabre board is that Emanuel was tipping all his offspeed pitches) the only thing that kept UVA from a sweep was one really lousy inning on Friday.

It's really not that bad a deal, though.  If you buy that there are five real competitors for the ACC title, any of which could win the tourney, UVA is in the tourney pool that has only two of them; us and FSU.  UNC has to deal with both Clemson and NC State.  On the other hand, we do have the only two teams that beat us in a series this year (that would be the two Techs.)

Some other notes in brief:

-- Nate Irving moves like a sloth in molasses, which makes it all the more exciting when he does things like beat out a bunt and score from second on a single to left.

-- Kyle Crockett was absolutely devastating on Thursday.  In retrospect it's a shame we used him Thursday, because he got shelled Friday and might not have if he hadn't pitched the day before, but man: when his curve is working, left-handers look like total dipshits against it.  And let's face it: we all know UNC has a nasty good lineup, and a six-run lead isn't totally safe.  As we sort of learned on Saturday when the Heels overcame a three-run deficit and nearly blew past a four-run one.  So no bagging on BOC for using Crockett to "save" a huge lead in game one.

-- Colin Moran won the ACC POY award over Mike Papi.  I am not sure whether to be enraged or not.  Papi probably had one of the best seasons ever for a non-winner.  I mean, hello, national OBP leader.  (Then again: national RBI leader Moran.)  On the one hand, Papi was probably penalized for not playing the whole season.  He wasn't even a starter at the beginning and sat about 10-12 games entirely.  This is probably part of the reason Joe McCarthy won freshman of the year instead of Skye Bolt.  So in that respect it evens out.  And it wasn't the media voting, it was the coaches, so for once we can't blame Caulton Tudor and his ilk.

On the other hand, the coaches couldn't even agree on which third baseman should be on the all-ACC first team; Moran shared that honor with VT's Chad Pinder.  If he's not definitively the best at his position, is he really the best overall player in the conference?

Oh well; we don't really know if Papi was "definitively the best" outfielder either, and he might well not have been.  Anyway, UVA was well represented on the honors list: Papi, Reed Gragnani, Nick Howard, and Kyle Crockett all made the first team; McCarthy and Branden Cogswell the second team, and UVA took home FOY and COY honors while UNC took pitcher and player of the year.  Of 36 slots on the honorees list, 15 are filled with Hoos or Heels.  Nice especially to see Gragnani honored after a career spent mostly on the injured list.

-- A few other bragfacts from the ACC release on this honors stuff: this is BOC's third COY award in four years and fourth of his UVA tenure.  During that tenure, UVA has only failed to reach 40 wins twice; we got 39 those times.


-- Clifton Richardson's impending transfer is definitely one of the more disappointing ones of late.  I think pretty much all of us had high hopes for his future.  It doesn't hurt the depth too badly, but Richardson had more potential than either of the backs in front of him on the chart.  Even if Taquan Mizzell was likely going to ensure Richardson never hit the top of the food chain.  It leaves basically four backs on the roster for 2013, all of whom will almost certainly see the field at some point.  Kevin Parks and Mizzell likely hold the inside track on the top two slots, and Khalek Shepherd and Kye Morgan will at a bare minimum get garbage time - though probably a little more than that.

-- An article that casts some doubt on the future, as-yet-nonexistent ACC Network.  Consolation prize if the ACC Network falls through: more cash from ESPN, quite probably meant as a way to ensure the viability of the conference since it's really in ESPN's best interest for the ACC to exist.  The article says that works out to about $2 million more per school per year, which after a little math and some assumptions means about $336 million total.  So what I hear from that is that if ESPN can buy out the necessary rights from the other media entities that own them for less than $336 million, it's network city.

-- The men's tennis team plays in its third straight national championship matchup tomorrow against UCLA.  A win would give UVA its first ever title, and extend our national championship streak to five years (UVA has won a national title in something every year since 2009) as well as give us a chance at our first multiple-title year since 1993.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

National champs, baby! And in the most dramatic fashion. Damn that was awesome.