Well, that turned out to be not so hard. It was no great shock that Bucknell presented little challenge, but even knowing about Arkansas's struggles at the plate it was a little surprising the ease with which UVA dispatched them. It was the blueprint of a regional weekend from start to finish: Hold back your ace and let him dominate a Saturday pitching battle after you blow out the 4 seed on Friday. Then force the one-loss survivor to stretch their pitching just past the breaking point. Arkansas starter Zach Jackson broke down exactly at the point where he'd reached his single-game maximum pitches and innings count.
UVA outscored their opponents 22-3 on the weekend, which you can't do unless the bats get off the schneid some. Hallelujah. Much was helped, to be sure, by the frying-pan mitts on the left side of Arky's infield, both Saturday and Sunday. (Irrelevant side note: the Razorback shortstop shares both a name and some facial resemblence with the villain in my favorite episode of NCIS.) It's often said, though, that you can't give a good team like UVA four or five outs an inning, and the Hoos sniffed blood and pounced like a championship team should.
Even so, pitching carried the day. The starters went more than 20 innings - I forget the exact amount but, y'know, a lot - without allowing a run. Not even an unearned one. What a tremendous advantage that is. It'd take a really unusual set of circumstances to lose the regional after that. I mean, Nathan Kirby. This guy, man. Be honest: did you ever feel like his three-run lead was anything less than perfectly safe?
UVA advances to take on Maryland, and in doing so becomes the bad guy in a feel-good story about a plucky little underdog trying to do things it's never done before. Maryland knocked off regional host South Carolina in extremely convincing fashion, making this guy look incredibly stupid in the process. Well, even stupider than you would when your only argument for why teams are bad is that they used to be. At any rate, if the Hoos eliminate the Terps this weekend,
More bullety stuff:
-- Nate Irving had one of the oddest at-bats in recent memory. First a "foul ball" that actually glanced off the catcher's glove (it wasn't the best weekend for umpiring, to be honest) and then a real and very unlucky foul ball that flew to the wrong side of the hitter and somehow hit the upraised bat.
-- I really do not know how the same shortstop can make a Web Gem-nominated play in between two utterly pitiful ones. But I'll take it. The pitiful ones led to runs and the brilliant stop was worth the out just to watch it.
-- The camera crew only showed Zach Jackson twice after his removal from the game, which is a step in the right direction - away from the usual puzzling desire to soak up as much despair from losing athletes as possible. I don't like the gleeful broadcasting of some poor guy's misery. But was it necessary to follow BOC's teenaged daughter all around the stadium? Yes, I'm sure she's a nice girl and happy birthday and all, now leave her be, once is plenty. The production truck could theoretically be called a windowless van, but you don't have to act like it.
-- I like that if we're going to bunt, we play a little Irvine baseball and hold the bat in bunting position even before the pitcher winds up. The whole point of a pitcher is to not let the hitter do what he wants to do, so I honestly think that holding the bat like that makes the pitcher subconsciously want to miss the bat with his pitch.... which means missing the strike zone too.
-- Arkansas brought in their sidearm pitcher and it's a shame we didn't have some righties to face him because he seemed to think the strike zone was about two feet north and east of where it really was, and would've plunked the bases loaded if the hitters hadn't been lefties.
-- The ACC unveiled its new logo last week. I don't hate it; I might even start to like it. I just think it's funny that they're still ganking the Big East's assets.
The booklet is a little silly, though. Actually, it's a lot silly. "The ACC brand simplifies purchase decision for fans and partners of the ACC." Is that even English? They're English words, I'm sure of that, but they don't fit together to make an English sentence. "The lettering is accentuated by a bold, silver underline that symbolizes the ACC’s journey toward a bright future." All the schools have the logo rendered in their own colors, though, and Duke's and NC State's underlines are black. Should those schools be worried about the future? I know this, though: the sentence "The ACC's future is really bright, and you can tell because their logo has a silver underline" is one that has never been uttered or written in human history and never will again.**
It's a frickin' logo, man. It's nice. But it's just a logo. Your brand is what other people think you are (they even admit as much in the little book) so you can't just go telling people what it is and expect it to stick. I wish they'd put half the effort into fixing the website; right now, "clueless about technology" is more a part of their brand than "confident yet humble."
**Unless someone gets smartassy in the comments.
-- I've parsed this article about the SEC's "Division IV" threat several times and cannot for the life of me figure out the difference between this Division IV thing and the autonomy the five conferences want. The message seems to be "Let us do what we want, or we'll do what we want." Actually, the timing of this public airing, and its message, what it really seems to say is "we're close to locking up the support we need for this autonomy thing, but we need to scare a few more people into compliance."