Wednesday, June 30, 2010

baseball recruits, part 2

Picking up where we left off yesterday, hopefully with better Google results....

Justin Nicolino

...but not with better news. Nicolino was projected to be a 3rd or 4th round pick in the MLB draft and planned on going to college all the way. Would have been a big deal. He went in the second, and will be going pro instead. Blame the Toronto Blue Jays. They have til August 16 to sign him, but don't sit around hoping it won't happen.

Mark Podlas

One of the few prospects who doesn't pitch for his high school team, Podlas plays the other usual position: center field. (It's a best-athlete thing. Like with quarterbacks in football, high school baseball teams like to get the ball in their best athlete's hands on every play. Or in the place where they have the most space to run.) Podlas was rated the 6th-best player in New York by Perfect Game, and thought of as a first-ten-rounds guy in the draft. He wasn't drafted at all, though; around that time, if a kid's sending out college waves, teams back off.

Being from the Northeast, Podlas knew he'd have to get out around the country to showcase himself, so he hit the camp circuit hard and played his travel ball all the way out in California. (That's a pretty good one-on-one interview in that second link, by the way.) He's a lefty batter, fast for his height (6'2"), and a good enough batter to be called the best left-handed high school bat in the country. High praise. And as is always important at UVA, a hard worker in the classroom too.

Mitchell Shifflett

It'll be interesting to see how Shifflett does on the basepaths against college catchers, because high school catchers couldn't do anything about him. He hit well over .400 (most any college prospect will) and even though the vast majority of his hits were singles, "a single is a double" in Shifflett's world. Even his college decision was fast: Shifflett also had a UNC offer, among others, but selected UVA way back in October of 2008.

Shifflett's hot hitting carried his Cosby team to the AAA state semifinals; until the season-ending loss to Woodbridge, he went 12-for-17 in four games and stole second just about every time he got on base. He was nearly perfect on the season in that regard, getting thrown out just once. (Must've had an untied shoelace.) In all he averaged a little shy of two SBs a game in his senior season.

Tyler Skulina

With size that makes pro scouts drool (6'6", 235, and he's grown a touch since being a 6'4" freshman) and a low-mid 90s fastball, about 92-93 when he's on (and touching 96 on one occasion), Skulina was the guy on draft watch for UVA baseball fans. Maybe he told everyone he was set on UVA or maybe it was the back injury (muscle strain) earlier this season, but Skulina didn't get drafted until very late, setting him up for his arrival in Charlottesville.

Skulina earned a boatload of accolades (All-American, player of the year in the state as a junior, trivial things like that) pitching for one of the nation's powerhouse programs - Walsh Jesuit has made three straight trips to the state championship game in Ohio, losing the last two. Skulina achieved perfection on his own, though: he never lost a game in four years of pitching. If there's one freshman to watch for playing time next year, this is the guy.

Austin Young

Listed at pitcher like most of the rest of the prospects, it's probably Young's bat that's carrying him to UVA. First base is where he made his mark enough to earn an honorable mention for the AAA all-state team, where you'll also notice Mitchell Shifflett among the first-teamers. First-team all-region and all-academic, too. Um, he also hit two home runs in a game once....otherwise, Austin Young is another name that just about might as well be John Smith to a search engine. That and/or there's less hype out there. Young is a big dude, though, at 240 pounds, and with that kind of size and nowhere near the pitching credentials of most of the rest of the group, is likely a first baseman all the way.

One piece of miscellaneous news is the announcement on the official site of a 2013/2014 series with a football program that only exists on paper at the moment. UTSA has DI-A aspirations and because Craig Littlepage is apparently in a charitable mood, we agreed to a home-and-home. Washington & Lee must have been all booked up.

The series is added to the future schedules page. It's a big disappointment, I think. Blown opportunity to find a real opponent for a '12/'14 home and home series, as our road schedule is now pretty much booked up through 2015. Unless we're planning on playing 6 road games in a year, which I sure hope not. I guess recruiting is one way to rationalize the trip, but even Baylor would have accomplished the same thing.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

baseball's recruiting class, part 1

Football and basketball get all the breaks. One of those players commits, you know it like before it happens and you know all about the guy just by plugging in. Baseball, not so much. No star ratings. No headlines and neon lights. Football, you can pick up on things just by osmosis. But you really have to go out of your way to even find the names in a baseball class, let alone any details. So here's a little attempt to familiarize the audience at large with UVA's recruiting class of 2010. Next year when the next Branden Kline or Danny Hultzen shows up on the mound, you won't have to wonder where the hell they came from.

Ryan Ashooh

The left-handed Ashooh pitches for Centreville in Northern Virginia and committed to UVA in late 2008, before his junior season. In his freshman season, Centreville was a 4-17 doormat; his pitching has helped to lift them from the doldrums to the regional tournament, where they exited this year in the quarterfinals. Ashooh was the district co-pitcher of the year, and threw two no-hitters, one in the regional opener.

Ashooh's had some injury issues: a broken vertebrae after his junior year and a really nasty-sounding virus before that regional no-hitter. Hopefully he'll avoid that in college, because there is always room for a 6'2" lefty with an upper-80s fastball on a pitching staff.

Kyle Crockett

A name you definitely know, if you follow high school baseball in the state of Virginia. Crockett is another southpaw, who has earned various and sundry state Player of the Year designations and led his Poquoson team to two consecutive AA state championships. Crockett was also the ESPN Rise Athlete of the Week in the East region, an honor earned for setting the state record for wins by a high school pitcher. Crockett's teammate Chad Pinder is also playing college ball next season - but in Blacksburg.

Derek Justice

Justice's Orange team lost a sixth-inning lead (second-to-last inning, in high school ball) to Crockett and Poquoson in the state quarterfinals, otherwise it might have been they who had a shot at the title. He pitches (lefty, also) and plays the outfield; his coach thinks it'll be pitching for him in college. And according to that article, his offer to UVA was for a full scholarship; impressive, since college baseball only allows for about 12 scholarships to be divided among 27 players; many only get a half or quarter scholarship.

Artie Lewicki

Coming to us out of New Jersey, Lewicki's another guy that's had a few health issues. Arm trouble ended his junior season and eventually caused him to undergo surgery. He throws in the low 90s and has what BA's Aaron Fitt calls a "promising slider." Lewicki's also been called "arguably the best pitcher in North Jersey" although that was unfortunately after getting beaten into the ground in the state tournament.

David Mixon

How embarassing. The Googlemachine is broken. Actually, it works just fine if you want to find out about the David Mixon that used to pitch for Louisiana-Monroe and is now toiling in the Giants' farm system. Our version is a Werman-sized pitcher out of Iowa, who plays for the non-search-engine-friendly Prairie High School. Prairie's season is still ongoing, which doesn't help. I guess if I had to speculate, Mixon's size and apparent lack of shining accolades worthy of being splashed on the Internet (at least outside Iowa) mean he'll be something other than a pitcher at UVA.

Despite that setback, Part 2 runs tomorrow.

Monday, June 28, 2010

recruiting board update

It's about that season where this thing requires weekly housecleaning. Let's get to it.

- Moved Brandon Phelps to orange and changed his position to CB. More in a bit.

- Added DE Thompson Brown to orange.

- Removed QB Kevin Hogan (Stanford), DE Corey Marshall (VT), and LB Nick Menocal (Miami.)

- Removed OT Landon Turner. Will this cause him to declare a top three like the below-mentioned Thourogood? Probably, just to spite me, but even more probably he's not coming to UVA.

- Re-added QB Lafonte Thourogood, to yellow this time. Convenient he would name a top three, like, the day I decide to drop him from the board. Fine, but I'm still awfully pessimistic about our chances to be honest.

- Re-added CB Jeremiah Hendy, currently "committed" to Maryland, to yellow as well. Here, this is the kind of thing that always makes me laugh a bit. Rivals and Scout are super-duper secretive about the recruiting information they put out, but as always they have to walk a fine line between protecting their info (making a subscription worth something) and letting you know they have it. So when a question is asked in the free portion of a subscription article such as "CB Hendy plans return visit to Virginia?" the answer is generally yes. Otherwise, why write the article? When it's a headline, you might as well mentally erase the question mark.

- Added CB Tim Scott to yellow. Lot of DB's, yeah? Doesn't bother me one bit, except that it'll be a hell of a time actually figuring out where they'll go. Very versatile bunch, really. I already mentioned Matt Bailey as a candidate for linebacker, for example.

Let me just add a quick word about Brandon Phelps committing. That word is (ahem): WOOFUCKYEAH!! It's not possible to overstate how big a deal this is. Phelps had offers from some of the biggest of the big boys: Alabama**, LSU, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State. It sure didn't hurt that he's a legacy, but hot damn any time you beat out 20 other schools with that kind of name, you have a winner. As big an Al Groh apologist as I have been, Al Groh probably would not have reeled in Phelps.

**Alabama has a way of sending out offers that aren't exactly "committable." It's in the same vein as the way a prospect will call himself committed somewhere so they hold the place for him while he looks around. It's a placeholder, in a way. LSU probably does this. Michigan does this, though neither as much as "hey-let's-sign-37-prospects-this-year" Alabama. It's why Michael Strauss has an an Alabama "offer" that looks weird next to the ones from UAB, FIU, and WMU. In Phelps's case, these are very definitely Big, Serious, committable offers.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

the recruit: Matt Bailey

Name: Matt Bailey
Position: S/LB
Hometown: New Orleans, LA
School: Edna Karr
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 190

Rivals: 5.5, three stars, #40 in LA
ESPN: 74, two stars, #82 safety
Scout: two stars

UVA hasn't gone to Louisiana for a prospect since Lord knows when. The Groh regime gave it a shot last year, aiming in the process for a couple of Matt Bailey's teammates; it didn't pan out, but Bailey did, earning the distinction of being Groh's final recruit.

Bailey plays linebacker for Edna Karr, but scouts figure him for a safety at the next level. You've got a lot of scouting reports that highlight his attributes for the position: good at diagnosing plays and in pass coverage, etc. It's more or less a given .... but I'm not so sure. London turned a lot of our safeties into linebackers. Bailey is listed at under 200, but others have him at 205 or even 215. At the very least there's absolutely no way he's 175 like Scout says. I think Bailey stays at linebacker when he gets to Charlottesville; he's just the same size as DB-turned-LB Lo'Vante Battle, and Battle was a high school linebacker too.

If Bailey gets to Charlottesville, anyway. At least as of April, he hadn't really shut off his recruitment. Not too surprising for a guy who jumped at his first offer, which came from coaches that aren't around any more. I'd still be surprised if he decommitted, but no predictions from me along those lines.

Predictions along career lines, though: both linebacker and safety are tough places to break into as a freshman. Bailey's medium-low ratings are pretty consistent, and he comes from a school with plenty of visibility. Somewhere in the mid-30s to 40th best player in Louisiana, a high two-star or low-three star type. Bailey's not going to crash the lineup right off the bat; a redshirt season is a lock and a half. One of Bailey's strengths is his smarts, which actually kind of plays against him in the London regime: a 4.2 student like Bailey is would have had a leg up on the competition learning Groh's intricate NFL-style defensive schemes. Jim Reid's are simpler, which might nullify his advantage somewhat. He'll be in a big mix for playing time, so if he starts - whether as a safety or a linebacker - it'll probably be as a junior at the earliest.

Friday, June 25, 2010

pick your Cavalier of the Year

A tad cheesy but unavoidably true, the comment left on one of the nomination posts:

These are and will be ALL WINNERS! Can you imagine trying to pick a single winner? Just an honor to be named among this group!
And yet a winner must be chosen. Time to hand out the trophy. Choosing from twelve extremely deserving nominees, that's the hard work. Which I leave to you, cause I'm lazy like that. As a refresher, here are your choices, should you need to read about them again:

Brittany Kalkstein and Paige Selenski
Drew Courtney/Michael Shabaz and Chris Henrich
Diego Restrepo and Scot Robison
Danny Hultzen and Monica Wright
Robby Andrews and Sarah Tacke
Ken Clausen and Lauren Perdue

There are national champions, record-breakers, all-Everythings, and a hell of a lot of ACC Somethings Of The Year. Some athletes are standing out in a long and proud tradition, others are carrying their teams to unexplored heights. Nearly every time I wrote one of these, I'd convinced myself that's who should get the nod; still, as always, I make no endorsement.

The poll is on the right. You have til the end of the July 4th weekend - specifically, Monday the 5th. Go.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

FOV Cavalier of the Year, #11/#12

From Old Virginia celebrates its birthday in a unique way: by recognizing one of Virginia's student-athletes as Cavalier of the Year. What are the criteria for the award? You decide: that's the beauty. I nominate the 12 athletes that I think have been most outstanding during the latest season of UVA athletics, and provide a short summary of their accomplishments. You choose the winner in a poll that goes up after all 12 have had their moment in the spotlight.

Over the next two weeks, two athletes at a time will be profiled, and you'll hear about what they've accomplished while representing Mr. Jefferson's University. The athletes are presented in a totally random order so as to hopefully not imply any endorsement one way or another. Athletes from all fields are considered; part of the point is that UVA is about excellence across the
entire department and doesn't shortchange its so-called non-revenue sports simply because they don't make headlines. Last year's winner was Danny Hultzen; today's athletes are Ken Clausen and Lauren Perdue.

Ken Clausen - Men's lacrosse - Defense

Team accomplishments:

- #1 seed in NCAA tournament
- NCAA Final Four
- ACC champions

Personal accomplishments:

- Tewaaraton Trophy finalist
- USILA first-team all-American
- Schmeisser Award recipient as nation's outstanding defensive player
- USILA Scholar All-American
- All-ACC selection
- Lowe's Senior Class Award finalist

There was no doubt about this one: Clausen was the country's top defenseman, period. There was a little question before the season about how UVA might replace a few key departures on the defensive side of things, but Clausen put those questions to rest, quickly. He led the ACC in turnovers caused and was always assigned to the opposition's best player, which he usually shut right down. It's not often a defenseman is selected as a Tewaaraton finalist; in fact, Clausen is only the second long-stick player ever selected for invitation to the awards banquet, and first since 2005.

UVA is known for churning out top-notch goal scorers: over the years, players like Matt Ward and Ben Rubeor and Danny Glading pass through, and you chalk them up for 30 goals and maybe a Tewaaraton finalist nomination. But none of them have been three-year all-Americans: Ken Clausen is the first Cavalier to claim that honor. And by starting every game in his career, he shares with Brian Carroll the UVA record for games played with 70. Chances are it'll be years, if ever, until we see another UVA defenseman of Clausen's caliber.

Lauren Perdue - Women's swimming & diving - Freestyle

Team accomplishments:

- ACC champions
- 9th place at NCAA championships

Personal accomplishments:

- ACC Freshman of the Year
- ACC Championships Most Valuable Swimmer
- Two-time ACC Performer of the Week
- 5 All-American events and 1 honorable mention
- 3 individual and 4 relay ACC championships
- 3 UVA records and 1 ACC record

A champion swim team needs a champion freestyler - a point I made when it was Scot Robison's turn in the spotlight. Lauren Perdue is a champion freestyler as well as an ACC record holder (200 yard freestyle.) Those are the kind of accolades you expect for a veteran swimmer; Lauren Perdue is a freshman. She stepped right in and anchored our relays, won multiple events at the conference meet, and finished fifth in the nation in the 50 free and 8th in the 200.

The UVA Invitational was a perfect microcosm of the way Perdue's career might be expected to go. She led off the 400 free relay with a 100-yard swim of 49.06, which set a new pool record. The old record was set by....uh, Lauren Perdue, about an hour prior in the individual 100 yard swim. That record broke the old record held by.....yes, Lauren Perdue, which she'd set the day before. Breaking her own records - I think there's a lot of that in her future.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

the recruit: Adrian Gamble

Time for another regularish offseason feature, and by regularish I mean sooner or later I'm getting through every one of these, but on no set schedule. We need to get up to speed on the 2011 commitments and find out what these guys are all about. Why not sooner? It helps to be able to compare the services' rankings on these guys and see who's full of crap and who isn't. Usually it's all of them at one point or another. Anyway, we go in order of commitment and that means starting with someone whose association with UVA is now almost a year old.

Name: Adrian Gamble
Position: WR
Hometown: Charlotte, NC
School: Independence
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 175

ESPN: 77, three stars, #66 WR
Rivals: NR
Scout: two stars

This wasn't even a recruitment; at least, not a public one. Gamble came to camp in Charlottesville last year and was offered a scholarship on the spot by the Groh regime when they saw his speed and jumping ability. Figure out the wide receiver stuff later, I guess. He committed before you're even able to get your offer in written form. Gamble plays for basically the top high school football program in the state of North Carolina, which makes it difficult to crack the roster; by the time of his commitment, he'd still actually never started a game for his varsity squad.

Independence is a really high-profile school; therein lies some of the silliness. Rivals has handed out their stars by now, but Gamble remains unrated because somehow (I'm guessing this is why) they have no film of one of the starting receivers on the top program in an important southern football state. ESPN has a pretty full evaluation, but a really bogus 40 time for the guy: 4.76. That's like, linebacker territory. Al Groh didn't offer a wide receiver who'd never played varsity football because of his 4.76 40 time.

Still, I think ESPN's is the fairest evaluation. Read the report and it's easy to see that the ratings they give him are based on a future projection. Of all the players already committed to UVA for 2011, Gamble is the one most worth watching during his senior season; he'll be a feature guy surrounded by talent, so it'll be important to see some major production.

Gamble is the only wide receiver in the class so far, but it's a near-certainty that won't be the case on Signing Day. When he arrives for fall practice, there'll be three scholarship senior WRs and three more scattered around the other classes - a really thin group, barring some position switches. A big senior season could see him arrive with similar credentials and expectations as Tim Smith, who stepped right into the lineup as a freshman, and likewise there'll probably be open playing time for a 2011 freshman as well. Whether Gamble is ready for it will depend a lot on how 2010 goes.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

FOV Cavalier of the Year, #9/#10

From Old Virginia celebrates its birthday in a unique way: by recognizing one of Virginia's student-athletes as Cavalier of the Year. What are the criteria for the award? You decide: that's the beauty. I nominate the 12 athletes that I think have been most outstanding during the latest season of UVA athletics, and provide a short summary of their accomplishments. You choose the winner in a poll that goes up after all 12 have had their moment in the spotlight.

Over the next two weeks, two athletes at a time will be profiled, and you'll hear about what they've accomplished while representing Mr. Jefferson's University. The athletes are presented in a totally random order so as to hopefully not imply any endorsement one way or another. Athletes from all fields are considered; part of the point is that UVA is about excellence across the
entire department and doesn't shortchange its so-called non-revenue sports simply because they don't make headlines. Last year's winner was Danny Hultzen; today's athletes are Sarah Tacke and Robby Andrews.

Sarah Tacke - Softball - Right field

Team accomplishments:

- First-ever selection to NCAA Tournament
- School-record 13 victories

Personal accomplishments:

- NFCA first-team All-Region
- Team BA and RBI leader
- ACC Player of the Week for 9-15 March
- Second-team all-ACC

Of the tremendous team accomplishments - conference and national championships, #1 rankings, Final Fours, and the like - achieved by UVA athletic squads this year, being a lowly regional third seed seems small in comparison. But by making the tournament for the first time ever, the softball team gave UVA a distinction: All 25 sports currently sponsored by UVA have now received bids to their respective NCAA national championships at some point in their history.

Helping to captain the team to their highest point of achievement ever is Sarah Tacke, the best hitter on the team by a long margin. Top fielder, too: Tacke had more assists and putouts with no errors than any ACC outfielder. Her batting and slugging averages were good enough for 4th and 3rd in the ACC, respectively. Tacke has been the team's leading batter for two years running and leading slugger for three; captaining the team to its first-ever NCAA tournament is a terrific cap to a terrific career and well worth a COTY nomination.

Robby Andrews - Men's track and field - Middle distance

Team accomplishments:

- 9th-place finish in Program of the Year Award

Personal accomplishments:

- Indoor 800 meter national champion
- Outdoor 800 meter runner-up
- Anchored UVA's first Penn Relays championship relay (4x800m) since 1943
- ACC's Indoor and Outdoor Performer and Freshman of the Year
- NCAA Outdoor All-American (800m)

It's impressive enough to be the ACC's undisputed top track athlete and sweep the ACC's indoor and outdoor awards for Performer and Freshman of the Year. So would a national championship be sufficient icing on the cake? The man he beat - by one-hundredth of a second - is no slowpoke: Oregon's Andrew Wheating, the second-place finisher, spent his summer of 2008 in Beijing, running in a little competition they hold every so often called the Olympics.

Andrews surprised the field there; after again topping Wheating to bring home UVA's Penn Relays (about as prestigious a track event as you'll ever see) 4x800 title, he won't be a surprise any more. Track & field coach Jason Vigilante is one of UVA's bright young coaches, and like swim coach Mark Bernardino, he's elevated UVA's track program to top-ten status in the country. Andrews is perhaps his brightest star and has UVA on (forgive plz) the right track.

Monday, June 21, 2010

useful stuff update: getting thin edition

Another big wave of commitments means it's time to fix what needs fixing. And what goes up must come down: Jeff White also breaks the news of a number of departures for the year - some permanent, others not - that also necessitates an update to the depth chart as well as the recruiting board. Let's have at it:

- Surprising amount of attrition sees five players leave the team: WR Quintin Hunter, WR Javaris Brown, OT Lamar Milstead, DE Tory Allen-Ford, and CB Javanti Sparrow. The explanation for Sparrow involves privacy laws and the possibility of return for 2011, which decrypts as "academic issues." So Sparrow may end up returning as did, for example, Chris Cook and Jameel Sewell. And he has a redshirt year to use, courtesy of Al Groh's "slashing and burning of our future," as some like to call it. The rest are out.

- On the flip side, scholarships are given to WR Matt Snyder and K Robert Randolph.

- I've also updated, by the way, the spaces for the '11 commits. The latest, Kevin Green, probably isn't going to a quarterback at all, but what the hell, he goes there for now. I don't think he's on board for his quarterbacking so much as for his overall athleticism.

Impact? First, by my count, 82 scholarships spoken for; we'll be a few shy this year. Second, a little extra space, but not a lot, opens up in the recruiting class of 2011. Sparrow's scholarship hopefully won't be open, but the shuffling basically adds two free spaces. There's a bare, absolute minimum now of 16 members of the class; 14 are spoken for, 15 if you count Clifton Richardson as a commit, which I don't, yet. 20 was the old target; I'm thinking 22 now. This is the silver lining, and it's a big one, because spaces are quickly coming off the board and there are some primo targets left.

Second, depth at cornerback just went from a big issue to a big big issue. I know Mike London wants speed at linebacker but can we really be carrying 11 linebackers and five cornerbacks? Five scholarship players is not a cornerback depth chart, it's a cornerback kiddie pool. Depth is suddenly a problem at receiver too, with just seven scholarship players there. Wide receiver just became a priority for this class.

Speaking of this class, let's have a look at the new, updated recruiting board:

- Moved TE Darius Redman, LB Caleb Taylor, and S Kameron Mack to orange, and added ATH Kevin Green there too.

- Removed a few players with whom our chances have fallen from near zero to actually zero: ATH Lafonte Thourogood, WR Quinta Funderburk, and OT Cyrus Kouandjio.

- Removed a couple more players who it doesn't look like we'll get involved with: LB Myles Jackson and WR Melvin Robinson.

- Removed ATH Chris Hall, who's now a Hokie.

- Moved DE Norkeithus Otis from yellow to red.

- Moved QB Kevin Hogan and OT Jay Whitmire from yellow to blue.

- Also, notably, moved LB Curtis Grant from yellow to blue. This isn't because Grant has narrowed down his list or anything. D-I schools can still be divided into two groups: those who've offered Grant, and those who figure they wouldn't have a chance. But the fact is, Grant has been to UVA a lot this spring. Charlottesville is something of a weekend hangout. This is a recruitment UVA fans will be glued to the same way we were for Morgan Moses. Might as well act like it.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

FOV Cavalier of the Year #7/#8

From Old Virginia celebrates its birthday in a unique way: by recognizing one of Virginia's student-athletes as Cavalier of the Year. What are the criteria for the award? You decide: that's the beauty. I nominate the 12 athletes that I think have been most outstanding during the latest season of UVA athletics, and provide a short summary of their accomplishments. You choose the winner in a poll that goes up after all 12 have had their moment in the spotlight.

Over the next two weeks, two athletes at a time will be profiled, and you'll hear about what they've accomplished while representing Mr. Jefferson's University. The athletes are presented in a totally random order so as to hopefully not imply any endorsement one way or another. Athletes from all fields are considered; part of the point is that UVA is about excellence across the entire department and doesn't shortchange its so-called non-revenue sports simply because they don't make headlines. Last year's winner was Danny Hultzen; today's athletes are Hultzen and Monica Wright.

Monica Wright - Women's basketball - Guard

Team accomplishments:

- #5 seed in NCAA tournament

Personal accomplishments:

- Set UVA women's all-time scoring record
- ACC Player of the Year
- ACC Defensive Player of the Year
- 4-time ACC Player of the Week
- WBCA National Defensive Player of the Year
- AP first-team All-American
- #2 overall selection in WNBA draft

Last year, Wright shared this nomination with teammate Lyndra Littles, because it seemed way unfair to pick one and not the other, so similar were their accomplishments. This year, and no insult meant to the rest of the lady hoopsters, but it'd be an insult to Wright to put anyone on her level. An absolute no-brainer choice for ACC POTY, Wright averaged 23.7 points a game, which was over four more than second place. She actually averaged more points (25.7) in ACC competition - almost seven points higher than the next gal. And her record-breaking 2,136th career point came just past halfway through the season. She finished with 2,540 points, third on the ACC's list.

Scoring is one thing; earning accolades on both ends of the court as the conference and national defensive POTY really rounds out the resume. 2nd in the nation in steals per game goes nicely with her 7th-place ranking in nationwide scoring. Monica Wright finishes up her career at UVA as far and away the best and most-accomplished women's basketball player the school has ever had.

Danny Hultzen - Baseball - Pitcher

Team accomplishments:

- First 50-win season in school history
- #1 seed in ACC tournament
- #5 seed nationally
- NCAA regional and super-regional host

Personal accomplishments:

- ACC Pitcher of the Year
- First-team all-ACC
- Baseball America 2nd-team All-American
- Howser Trophy semifinalist
- CoSIDA 2nd-team Academic All-American

Back for more. Last year's winner only improved with age, as Hultzen avoided the sophomore slump and locked down Friday nights for Hoo baseball. Finishing with an 11-1 record and a 2.78 ERA - outstanding in the bigs, and extraordinary in a metal-bat league - Hultzen held opposing hitters to a paltry .193 batting average. Hultzen's record would have been spotless but for a 1-run output by the offense against Wright State. Following another early hiccup in which UVA faltered late against NC State after Hultzen had departed the game (thereby not earning the loss), the team would not lose another Hultzen start the rest of the season - a two-month stretch.

For his efforts, the ACC declared him Pitcher of the Year, ahead of two MLB 1st-round picks in UNC's Matt Harvey and GT's Deck McGuire. Only fair, as Hultzen outdueled them both in UVA wins and earned the win himself against McGuire. Whether Hultzen earns a second COTY win in a row is up to you, but there's no chance he'll ever be our first four-time nominee; another season like this one will get him a top-five draft selection of his own.

Friday, June 18, 2010

wait til next year

I'm no Chicago Cubs fan, but I kinda like 'em anyway. So in the spirit of that team whose favorite year is always next year, let's mark the conclusion of the 2010 baseball season with a look forward instead of backwards.

First, for reference, your nominal 2010 lineup:

1B John Hicks
2B Keith Werman
3B Steven Proscia
SS Tyler Cannon
LF Phil Gosselin
CF Jarrett Parker
RF Dan Grovatt
C Franco Valdes
DH John Barr

SP Danny Hultzen
SP Robert Morey
SP Cody Winiarski
SP Branden Kline

This year the Hoos were (in the spirit of the World Cup here) highly fancied as a contender since basically the entire lineup returned. Not so this year. Valdes and Cannon are seniors (and Cannon has already signed with Cleveland) and the Hoos also lose Neal Davis out of the bullpen. Worse, the MLB draft pretty much cratered most of the rest of the starting lineup. The list of draftees:

Jarrett Parker, 2nd round (74th overall) to the Giants
Phil Gosselin, 5th round (164th overall) to the Braves
Robert Morey, 5th round (167th overall) to the Marlins
Kevin Arico, 10th round (307th overall) to the Reds
Dan Grovatt, 11th round (327th overall) to the Pirates
Tyler Cannon, 12th round (360th overall) to the Indians
Tyler Wilson, 35th round (1057th overall) to the Reds
Kenny Swab, 35th round (1064th overall) to the Braves
Neal Davis, 36th round (1101st overall) to the Phillies

Big gap there. And above that line are three big bats and our Saturday starter. That's leave-early territory, especially Parker, Gosselin, and Morey. It might not be a total shock if Arico or Grovatt stuck around hoping for a big season; Arico, however, is currently the nation's saves leader (and will stay that way unless Arizona State and their 14-save closer wins the CWS in a fashion that causes all their fans to die of heart attack). Another season will not improve his stock - he's gone. Grovatt had a better season in 2009; it's possible he stays and tries to repeat his '09 numbers for a higher slot, but probably not.

The other players with decisions to make are Wilson and Swab. Wilson didn't get picked high because he's a reliever. College starters become relievers in the bigs, but it doesn't go the other way round. He probably won't get picked much higher than that if he sticks around, so don't be too shocked to see him take his chances while he's got an ounce of leverage.

Swab, on the other hand, looks like a lock to stay. Cannon was drafted in the 41st round last year, didn't go, and parlayed his senior season into a 12th round pick. Swab can go the same route; with Valdes graduating, a starting job awaits, be it 1B or catcher. (My money's on 1B with Hicks catching.)

The draft was relatively kind to our incoming freshman class. Justin Nicolino went in the 2nd round by the Blue Jays, may the salt of a thousand oceans cover their fields. Nicolino now plans to go pro. Tyler Skulina was taken in the 1300-somethingth slot, which is not going to cause him to skip college.

So that leaves this:

1B Kenny Swab?
2B Keith Werman
3B Steven Proscia
SS ??
LF ??
CF ??
RF Dan Grovatt
C John Hicks?
DH John Barr

SP Danny Hultzen
SP Branden Kline
SP Cody Winiarski

The weekend rotation should settle out nicely; likewise, the weekday starters shouldn't be hard to find. Will Roberts will probably be the top candidate for that job. Tyler Skulina could get some innings that way as well, as he tries to do as Kline did this year and pitch his way into the rotation. More of a mystery will be that outfield, and shortstop. Brian O'Connor will be looking for ways to get the bats of Reed Gragnani and Stephen Bruno in the lineup, and Bruno's played a little shortstop this year. He could slot there - all 5'9" of him - and give us the shortest middle infield in history. Gragnani did more DHing than anything this year and could be tougher to find a slot for, but expect him to be in the weekend starting lineup regardless.

Defensive considerations will come into play as well. Gosselin and Parker played error-free ball all year - that's indispensible, especially in center. Whatever happens to those two positions next year, it probably won't be an improvement over that.

The bullpen will be really interesting to watch. The closer is probably gone and Tyler Wilson might be too, but there are a ton of candidates that folks were eager to see and didn't get their fill of. Chad O'Connor, Scott Silverstein, Justin's a longish list of promising and mostly unproven arms. We'll see them get their shakes next season.

The players themselves aren't done playing baseball. You can't figure out next year's contributions without seeing how they'll do in their summer leagues. Here's the list, as comprehensive as I can figure:

Cape Cod:

Will Roberts - Bourne Braves
John Hicks - Harwich Mariners
Steven Proscia - Harwich Mariners
Tyler Wilson - Hyannis Harbor Hawks
Danny Hultzen - Hyannis Harbor Hawks

New England:

Chris Taylor - Newport Gulls
Branden Kline - Newport Gulls


Jared King - Waynesboro Generals
Colin Harrington - Waynesboro Generals

Coastal Plain:

David Coleman - Peninsula Pilots
Shane Halley - Peninsula Pilots
Chad O'Connor - Peninsula Pilots

Cal Ripken:

Rob Amaro - Youse's Orioles (get off me - the apostrophe is supposed to be there)

New York:

Aaron Stull - Oneonta Outlaws
Whit Mayberry - Oneonta Outlaws

That Tyler Wilson is signed up to play summer league ball isn't necessarily indicative of his plans as far as the minors go, but one can hope. Anyway, there you have it. Next year's early outlook probably doesn't involve 50 wins or 1 seed in the ACC tournament, but there's no reason this team shouldn't be in contention anyway. The achievable goal is to host another regional.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

short hiatus

Very short. I'd've said something earlier, but yesterday there were people in my house putting my stuff into boxes and the boxes onto a truck, so I was busy. I'm in the middle of moving, so a hold of two or three days is on while I get myself resettled. And besides, at this minute I'm overlooking Niagara Falls from the 19th floor and about to go play a little blackjack, which is the sort of fun I really should have more often.

Be back soon - Thursday or Friday - and will jump into the remainder of the COTY series, as well as a baseball postmortem. Well, not really about the baseball, because there aren't many different ways to say the pitching left the park before the season was over. But there'll be a primer on the MLB draft and how that'll affect next year's look, as well as what to look for in the summer leagues. Plus, I still need to reupdate the recruiting board, and any minute now I'll start profiling the 2011 recruits. There's no such thing as the offseason.

Monday, June 14, 2010

FOV Cavalier of the Year, #5/#6

From Old Virginia celebrates its birthday in a unique way: by recognizing one of Virginia's student-athletes as the Cavalier of the Year. What are the criteria for the award? You decide; that's the beauty. I nominate the 12 athletes that I think have been the most outstanding during the latest season of UVA athletics, and provide a short summary of their accomplishments. You choose the winner in a poll that goes up after all 12 have had their moment in the spotlight.

Over the next two weeks, two athletes at a time will be profiled, and you'll hear about what they've accomplished while representing Mr. Jefferson's University this year. The athletes are presented in a totally random order so as to hopefully not imply any endorsement one way or another. Athletes from all fields are considered; part of the point is to emphasize that UVA is about excellence across the
entire department and doesn't shortchange its so-called non-revenue sports simply because they don't make headlines. Last year's winner was Danny Hultzen; today's athletes are Diego Restrepo and Scot Robison.

Diego Restrepo - Men's soccer - Goalkeeper

Team accomplishments:

- ACC champions

Personal accomplishments:

- School-record 1176:51 shutout streak, including 11 straight shutouts
- School-record 15 shutouts
- Nationwide leader in save percentage at .890
- ACC Tournament MVP
- NCAA Tournament Defensive MVP
- College Soccer News 1st-team All-America
- NSCAA All-Region third team

Eight. The men's soccer team played 25 games this season, and in those 25 games - over 2300 minutes of soccer - just eight times did a ball find its way into the UVA net. Diego Restrepo's shutout streak that spanned 11 games plus most of two others on either end (VT scored in the 13th minute of our game, and not until the 70th minute of a game almost two months later did the streak come to an end) is astounding in and of itself, but what lifted UVA to the championship of everything is when it happened. And who it happened against. Wake Forest - the #3 team in the country and a College Cup final four participant - had three cracks at Restrepo and couldn't score until it was just about too late. The shutout streak spanned the final half of the ACC season, the entire ACC tournament, and three-plus games in the NCAAs.

The streak ended against Wake Forest in the semifinals of the College Cup, but an overtime golden goal sent UVA onward, and Restrepo got right to work on a second streak. The victim this time: unbeaten, untied, top-ranked Akron. Not until the penalty kicks could Akron get a ball past Restrepo, and even then it took some time: the first attempt would be saved as Diego decided, on a hunch, that the shooter would go the opposite way that he'd gone in Akron's previous shootout against UNC. It wasn't the first time Restrepo had made the right call on a penalty kick: a PK save against Maryland in the quarterfinals preserved the streak, though it wasn't necessary to win the game. The Akron save did prove to be a game-winner. Check that: it would prove to be a national-championship winner. It might even be a Cavalier-of-the-Year winner.

Scot Robison - Men's swimming & diving - Freestyle

Team accomplishments:

- ACC champions
- 10th at NCAA national meet

Personal accomplishments:

- ACC champion in 50, 100, and 200 yard freestyle
- Member of all four ACC-champion relays
- ACC meet Most Valuable Swimmer
- ACC records set in 100 and 200 yard freestyle
- 1 individual, 4 relay, and 1 individual honorable mention All-America honors
- 4th-place finish at NCAAs in 200-yard freestyle

Every successful swim team has top-notch freestylers. At a college swim meet, there are just about as many freestyle events as all other events combined. Sprinters are especially important - every event up through 200 yards is considered a sprint. So a guy like Scot Robison - the fastest swimmer in the ACC - is irreplaceable. He wins lots of events.

Robison was a key member of the team last year as well, but this year really cemented his status. He swam no fewer than seven events - the max - in the ACCs, and his wins weren't touch-outs. 26 hundredths of a second seems like nothing at all; it's all that separated him from second place in the 50 freestyle, and it's also what separated second place from seventh in the same race. The 50 free is tight; the 200 free, not so much, as Robison won it by more than two body lengths. You'd have to look pretty hard to find someone who does as much for their team as Robison does for his.

Friday, June 11, 2010

series preview: Oklahoma

After two weekends of screwing around with the pitching rotations, it's time once again for a straight-up weekend duel. Best two out of three; winner goes to Omaha. It's that easy. Here's a look at an opponent that we Hoos aren't that familiar with.

Possible lineup:

CF Chris Ellison (.329-4-30)
LF Max White (.307-14-40)
3B Garrett Buechele (.387-16-62)
1B Cameron Seitzer (.317-14-51)
C Tyler Ogle (.308-8-40)
RF Cody Reine (.333-6-31)
2B Danny Black (.339-5-47)
DH Ricky Eisenberg (.306-3-12)
SS Caleb Bushyhead (.329-5-35)


RHP Michael Rocha (7-1, 3.50)
RHP Zach Neal (8-3, 4.42)
RHP Bobby Shore (9-4, 4.23)


RHP Jeremy Erben (7-1, 3.90)
RHP Jack Mayfield (4-0, 2.03)
LHP J.R. Robinson (2-3, 4.61)
RHP Ryan Duke (3-1, 3.51, 11 SV)

The Sooners shifted their lineup a lot during the course of the season, but that's the one they finished up with - it stayed that way during both the Big 12 tournament and last week's regional games against Oral Roberts and UNC. Since lefty Danny Hultzen is taking the mound tomorrow, you may see some changes in that lineup: right-handed Kaleb Herren, for example, could step in at the expense of the left-handed Cody Reine in right field. Oklahoma has a lot of left-right flexibility, so expect a lot of pinch-hitting to nullify any matchup advantages that Brian O'Connor might want to try and exploit.

Regardless of who subs in and out, there's one thing you won't see in the lineup: weak spots. It's too late in the season for that. Even St. John's with their very scary middle, had some really lame hitters at the bottom. None of that for Oklahoma. And their home park, Mitchell Field, is a pitchers' park with dimensions even larger than those of Davenport, so they won't suddenly find themselves with warning-track power.

In order to beat them, our pitchers will need to have their off-speed stuff on point. The Sooners' bats like to swing, and they're prone to missing. They're tops in the Big 12 in strikeouts. Just don't hang a curve: they also lead the Big 12 in slugging %.

As for the pitching, there's another thing you'll see missing: lefties. That's a positive for our lineup, and hopefully some of our spark plugs like Jarrett Parker and Keith Werman can have a big weekend. Michael Rocha is the announced starter for Oklahoma against Danny Hultzen; Rocha has been a reliever most of the season, but against Kansas in the Big 12 tournament, he showed the ability to pitch deep into a game, going eight innings for the win.

The Sooner arms are about like their bats, really: mostly not eye-popping, but solid and without weak points. It should work in our favor that any lefties they might put on the mound are either seldom-used, hittable, or both. Still, the bats will need to be on their best behavior all weekend, because Oklahoma has a good, deep bullpen and won't have any qualms about pulling a struggling starter and choking off any rallies.

The game 3 matchups are TBD, because that always depends on who the coaches bring in to relieve. In our case, that basically means that Branden Kline will start on Monday if we didn't use him on Saturday or Sunday. Oklahoma's Bobby Shore is a safer bet to get the nod, as he's been strictly a starter all year and the Sooner pen is deep enough that he shouldn't be needed in any emergency duty.

Tough weekend - in other words, just like being back in the ACC regular season. If the pitching holds up (translation: if Hultzen pitches like Hultzen and Morey pitches like Morey) then this thing is UVA's to win. After all, the Hoos won 9 of 10 ACC series. If not, it could be an interesting series full of double-digit scoring. Two more wins to Omaha.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

i'm duty-bound to chime in on this expansion stuff

Nobody's talking about anything but conference expansion at this point, so in order to not look like I live in my own tiny little world, I must say things about it. Even if the ACC is, for now, only peripherally involved.

Occasionally I write things half for the purpose of convincing myself they're true, and ordinarily I don't like for you to know the difference between that and things I fervently believe with all my heart. Ideally I'd write nothing except for things I fervently believe with all my heart, except for when they turn out to be wrong and then I was just throwing that stuff out there as a possibility. But this: well, one of my strongest beliefs in college football in in the church of Get-off-my-lawn-ism, so I don't usually take too well to mega seismic shifts in the landscape.

Neither do a lot of people. But the larger point (one that I'm not especially happy to accept myself) is that this kind of shift has been going on all throughout college football's history. Conferences grow, disappear, form out of thin air, and the landscape looks different decade to decade. Believe me, I'd be happy as a clam if things stayed just the way they were, except with Notre Dame in the Big Ten where they bloody well belong. 12-team conferences work. 16-team conferences are weird. But such is life. Consider how things have evolved throughout the decades. See if you can follow along....

Once upon a time, there used to be a thing called the Southern Conference. There still is, but its major status has long since disappeared into dust. The Pac-10 (or 11, what with Colorado and all) claims to be the conference with the longest-standing associations between schools, but truth be told the current incarnation of the Pac-10 rose up out of the ashes of what used to be the Pacific Coast Conference, which was basically the Pac-10 minus the Arizonas, and plus Idaho and Montana. The latter two disappeared, the PCC dissolved and became the AAWU, and re-emerged as the Pac-8, some five or six years after the ACC was formed out of a chunk of the Southern Conference, which at the time was a horribly unwieldy mess of 17 loosely-associated teams. But not Georgia Tech, which used to be in the SEC. Instead they had South Carolina. South Carolina quit and became an independent (unthinkable today) and Georgia Tech was poached from the SEC as a replacement.

The Big Ten wasn't always the Big Ten, of course. They were the Big Nine in between the University of Chicago's departure and the arrival of Michigan State in the '50s. The Big 12 used to be the Big 8, which used to be the Big 7, which used to be Big 6; the name changed as they glommed on teams like Colorado and Oklahoma State. The Southwest Conference existed happily for 80 years - indeed it would have been unthinkable for the SWC to ever disappear, as they had just about every school that mattered in football-mad Texas. But disappear it did, starting when the SEC poached Arkansas and added South Carolina to make the first (egads!) 12-team behemoth.

The history of football out west is a lot like the history of gunslinging out west: full of graveyards and short-lived, constantly-shifting allegiances. The WAC was the big thing in the '90s - very big, until a schism in a conference too big to sustain itself created the Mountain West. But if you look at the history of schools in that region of the country, it's filled with things called the Border Conference, Skyline Conference, Mountain States Conference, and other appealing names.

And let's not forget the endeavours of our very own ACC, whose expansion in the middle of the 2000s caused a ripple effect that triggered migrations to and from the Big East (itself a weird conglomeration of once-independent football schools like Pitt and Miami that decided to give the whole conference thing a try), Conference USA, the Sun Belt, and sundry other destinations. None of these are more than 20 years old. C-USA, of course, is the unholy result of a merger between the Metro Conference (VT's old-time association) and the Great Midwest Conference, of which only two teams remain in C-USA to begin with, the rest having scattered to the four winds.

Did you catch all that? There'll be a quiz. But if you fail, don't worry. If you don't like the landscape of things, wait a few years and it'll all shake out differently again. It has before. The only thing different about now is that it's all happening all at once - welcome to the Internet age.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

FOV Cavalier of the Year, #3/#4

From Old Virginia celebrates its birthday in a unique way: by recognizing one of Virginia's student-athletes as the Cavalier of the Year. What are the criteria for the award? You decide; that's the beauty. I nominate the 12 athletes that I think have been the most outstanding during the latest season of UVA athletics, and provide a short summary of their accomplishments. You choose the winner in a poll that goes up after all 12 have had their moment in the spotlight.

Over the next two weeks, two athletes at a time will be profiled, and you'll hear about what they've accomplished while representing Mr. Jefferson's University this year. The athletes are presented in a totally random order so as to hopefully not imply any endorsement one way or another. Athletes from all fields are considered; part of the point is to emphasize that UVA is about excellence across the entire department and doesn't shortchange its so-called non-revenue sports simply because they don't make headlines. Last year's winner was Danny Hultzen; today's athletes are Drew Courtney/Michael Shabaz and Chris Henrich.

Drew Courtney/Michael Shabaz - Men's tennis - #1 Doubles

Team accomplishments:

- ACC champions
- Ended regular season ranked #1 in the nation
- Advanced to final four

Personal accomplishments:

- NCAA doubles national champions
- 13-2 record as doubles team
- Combined for 23-6 record as singles players in dual matches

National championships are always worth getting excited about, and consecutive national championships are a surefire way to earn a COTY nomination. Michael Shabaz's doubles partner last year was a different guy, but the result is the same: trophies. Shabaz is one of the elite players in the nation: he finished the season ranked 7th in the country in the singles rankings and played 13 dual (that is, us against another team as opposed to an invitational) matches as UVA's #1 singles entry, winning 11. He added three more wins in the NCAA singles championship before being eliminated in the quarterfinals.

Courtney's no slouch either, of course; his total of 32 total singles wins and 19 dual match wins is tops on the team. He finished the season ranked #43, but outperformed that designation by also winning a match in the NCAA singles championships.

But it's as a team these two are nominated. In the season's final doubles rankings, they land at #5. The list of vanquished opponents on the way to the NCAA championship, though, is long and distinguished: their last three matches of the tournament were against, respectively, the #1, #4, and #3 ranked pairings on the ITA's list. And in the semifinals, they faced off against Bradley Klahn of Stanford, who himself is the NCAA singles champion. A difficult road to be sure, but it makes UVA's second individual national title of the season all the more satisfying.

Chris Henrich - Wrestling - 174 lbs.

Team accomplishments:

- ACC champions
- 15th at NCAA championships

Personal accomplishments:

- National 3rd-place finish in 174 lb. weight class
- ACC 174 lb. champion
- UVA's first two-time wrestling All-American
- 35-3 record

UVA wrestling has never really been a big deal. The last ACC championship was in 1977; the last time they'd done this well at the NCAAs was in 1957. Led by Chris Henrich, that changed this year. Henrich, a junior, has qualified for the NCAAs in every year of his UVA career, and only an exceedingly close decision kept him from wrestling in the championship match at the national tournament.

Henrich's 174-lb. championship at the ACCs was his second in a row, and the championship match was no contest at all. I don't know how you score points in wrestling, but I know this: in any sport, a 20-5 win is domination, and in this case it was far and away the widest decision of the meet. He was similarly dominant during the regular season, losing just two matches (one of them to the #1-ranked wrestler in the country and the other by just one point) and none to an ACC opponent. You could hardly find a more natural choice for a COTY nomination than one putting his team back on the national map after a long hiatus.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

regional of near-doom review

I tell you what - it's probably actually more nerve-racking to watch baseball games unfold on Gametracker than it is watching them on TV. Cause you never know when the next pitch is gonna happen. Might be now, or it might be three minutes from now and then it's gonna give you four quick ones in a row. And sometimes the damn thing ain't even right. This baseball version seems to be OK enough, but I still have very annoying memories of the time the Yahoo gametracker thing told me we'd hit a game-winning three-pointer against VT only to find out a few minutes later it was a game-tying bucket, and yes, we lost big in OT.

Anyway, Gametracker it was for me this weekend, for two games that were pretty much blowouts and two games that were way closer than they should have been. So here's what happened over the weekend:

Friday: UVA 15, VCU 4

Cody Winiarski gets the start for the Hoos and is quickly staked to a 7-1 lead at the expense of VCU's not-so-scary-after-all ace, Seth Cutler-Voltz. Winiarski doesn't last as long as we'd ideally like, frittering away half that lead in the fourth inning and forcing Brian O'Connor to bring in shutdown long reliever Tyler Wilson. Wilson puts an end to any more VCU thoughts of ever again arriving safely at second base, let alone scoring; he breezes through three full innings, by which time the lead is large enough that backup infielder and sometimes-pitcher Corey Hunt - he of the ten IP all year - is brought in to finish the last two, which he does as the UVA bats continue to give the scoreboard operator something to do. All nine UVA starters get at least one hit, and the 5/6/7 hitters (Parker, Hicks, and Cannon) combine for nine hits, nine runs, and eight RBI.

Saturday: UVA 13, Ole Miss 7

The Hoos jump on Ole Miss starter Aaron Barrett for 7 runs, leading Rebs fans to lament that if their second starter can't last three innings, they're really screwed going forward. (They were right: in the next game, Ole Miss starter David Goforth failed to get out of the first inning enroute to giving up eight of St. John's 20 runs.) Danny Hultzen fails to be Hultzen-esque, giving up six runs in six innings. He gets the win anyway, and Branden Kline slams the door after making an oops pitch on a full count to the first batter. For the second game in a row, every UVA starting hitter collects a hit. Most collect two. John Barr collects four in four at bats and somehow manages to never score.

Sunday: St. John's 6, UVA 5

Well damn. UVA had just racked up 28 runs in 2 games and was facing a pitcher with an ERA north of 6; this was supposed to be the crowning slaughter. Instead we get a game that wasn't really as close as it looked. Other than a five-run fourth, UVA's bats were held mostly silent, and Robert Morey immediately gave back two of them in the bottom half of the inning. Despite this, UVA clung to a 5-4 lead through three and a half more innings, until St. John's slugger extraordinaire (who is a FRESHMAN and has TWENTY-FOUR HOME RUNS) delivered his second souvenir of the day into the outfield bleachers. Or maybe beyond. That was the margin of victory, and of course it came with two outs.

Monday: UVA 5, St. John's 3

Since we couldn't seem to figure out how to hit the ball past the outfielders, O'Connor resorted to some small ball. Sacrifices, double steals, and the ever-popular UVA classic, grounding into inning-ending double plays with the bases loaded, resulted in getting runs one at a time. Better than barely getting them at all, though. Branden Kline pitched 5 1/3 excellent innings and Kevin Arico had his longest outing of the year. Why longest? Because Brian O'Connor is a smart baseball man, not a dummy. UVA was sitting on a 4-1 lead in the top of the 6th; unfortunately, the bases were loaded and St. John's had Baltzey at the bat. You do not keep your closer around for the 9th inning if the game is about ready to be lost in the 6th. O'Connor brought in Arico to face Baltz, and Baltz grounded weakly to second; too weakly, as the Hoos didn't manage to get the double play and a run scored anyway. UVA escaped the inning with a 4-3 lead, which would prove to be enough as Arico has balls the size of coconuts.


- Should you be worried about the bats? No, not really. Most of the time, the hits were there when we needed them. Oklahoma's starting pitching is a little bit meh for a one-seed, so we'll get our offense.

- Should you be worried about Danny Hultzen? Absolutely. An ERA that's ballooned about a full point in the last month or so is cause for concern, and his last few outings haven't been great. You live and die with your ace, so he'll be out there for Game 1 on Saturday; let's hope he's good for six or seven strong ones.

- St. John's is going to be a very, very good team next year.

- Again: Props to O'Connor for bringing in the fireman when it mattered. The game was won right there in the sixth-inning with the go-ahead run at the plate and 24 home runs under his belt. It may seem like the no-brainer, but with the bats steadily going cold, it's too risky to bring in anyone but your best; nevertheless, some managers -big-league ones, too - will insist on the notion that if you have a closer, he's a 9th-inning guy only. No, you bring him in when you need the big guns, and if that's as early as the 6th, so be it.

- More on Oklahoma on Friday. For now, give a shout to your regional champs.

Monday, June 7, 2010

recruiting board update

The baseball game starts soon. In fact, the way things usually go, it'll probably be started by the time you're reading this. Heck, it'll probably be over by the time you're reading this. I hope we won. Anyway, win or lose, any opinions on the regional have to wait til tomorrow. This past weekend, baseball wasn't the only game in town. Mike London hosted a big, big recruiting day - the kind where you get a whole bunch of your top recruits in town, show them around, show their parents you actually have classrooms and stuff, and then sit them all down and get as many commitments as you can before they leave town and have a chance to have too many second thoughts.

The end result is that some updates need to be made to the recruiting board, in a good way. With school getting out for the year, the camp circuit is getting fired up and events like this are getting more common and the result is that recruits are going to have a lot more reason to start committing places. So I'll see if I can't get the editor to update that board a little more regularly.

The other development that accompanies this time of year is that the recruiting services start to come out with their ratings. That means, pretty soon, I'll start profiling the commitments so far, of which there are 10, plus one holdover from 2010. It's useful to have three services instead of two, because disagreements in the ratings can be more easily ironed out. I always do them in order that they committed, so basically as soon as the services get around to giving Adrian Gamble some stars, that's when I'll start. You'll notice a lot more stars and such on the board this time, as these ratings have largely begun trickling out to the masses.

So, here are the latest updates:

- Moved DT Vincent Croce and DE Marco Jones to orange. You know that means: it means yay. Both are solid, solid pickups for Mike London. Croce especially; whatever his ratings turn out to be (pretty good so far; Scout has him at four stars) his offer list is highly impressive.

- Moved ATH Brandon Phelps up to blue. Phelps has offers from everywhere and I mean everywhere: LSU, Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Alabama, Notre Dame, the works. You probably know the story - that Phelps is a UVA legacy - but it would still be a major recruiting coup for London if he could snag Phelps over offers like that. And he's working on it hard. UVA fans should pay close attention to this one, if you aren't already.

- Added TE Eric Frohnapfel to blue and his brother, QB Blake, to yellow. I get the sense both would be Cavaliers already if Blake had an offer. Eric has his, though. We'll have to wait and see on Blake.

- Added TE Ryan Malleck to yellow.

- Added a couple more names to "most-desired" status: QB Kevin Hogan and CB Blake Countess. Countess looks like a keeper - got the big ratings and the offer list to match - and Hogan is the top-available quarterback. You always want quarterbacks. Their names are now highlighted in orange.

This thing is getting bulky, I'll tell you what. But it makes for a very interesting recruiting season. An improvement over last year.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

FOV Cavalier of the Year, #1/#2

From Old Virginia celebrates its birthday in a unique way: by recognizing one of Virginia's student-athletes as the Cavalier of the Year. What are the criteria for the award? You decide; that's the beauty. I nominate the 12 athletes that I think have been the most outstanding during the latest season of UVA athletics, and provide a short summary of their accomplishments. You choose the winner in a poll that goes up after all 12 have had their moment in the spotlight.

Over the next two weeks, two athletes at a time will be profiled, and you'll hear about what they've accomplished while representing Mr. Jefferson's University this year. The athletes are presented in a totally random order so as to hopefully not imply any endorsement one way or another. Athletes from all fields are considered; part of the point is to emphasize that UVA is about excellence across the
entire department and doesn't shortchange its so-called non-revenue sports simply because they don't make headlines. Last year's winner was Danny Hultzen; today's athletes are Brittany Kalkstein and Paige Selenski.

Brittany Kalkstein - Women's lacrosse - Midfield

Team accomplishments:

- 14-6 record
- Advanced to 2nd round of NCAA tournament as 6th seed

Personal accomplishments:

- 41 goals, 21 assists
- First-team IWCLA All-American
- Two-time ACC Player of the Week
- One-time Inside Lacrosse National Player of the Week
- Tewaaraton Trophy finalist
- Women's lacrosse Honda Sports Award finalist
- First-team All-ACC, First-team ACC Tournament team

Kalkstein fell just shy of being the team's leading scorer, but there's no doubting her status as the team's top player. The lady laxers had their best season since 2007, advancing to the second round of the tournament under extremely difficult circumstances.

Kalkstein scores - a lot. Her 41 goals stand out, and she was credited with more game-winning goals than anyone else on the team. There's little she doesn't do - she was tied for the team lead in ground balls and second on the team in caused turnovers. She's also started every single game during her four-year career, without missing a single one. But it's draw controls - the women's equivalent to faceoff wins - where Kalkstein makes her name. Last year she set the UVA single-season record with 73 - and then smashed that record like it was Disco Demolition Night with 97 in this, her senior season. It took only until the first game of this season for her to break the UVA career record here, and when she won her national POTW awards, they were also for her draw controls - nine of them in an upset win against Syracuse, more than twice her already sky-high career average. The men's team could take a lesson. In any case, rewriting the UVA record books and being a national finalist for every award out there is a surefire way to earn a COTY nomination.

Paige Selenski - Field hockey - Midfield

Team accomplishments:

- 20-4 record
- Most wins in UVA history
- #2 seed in NCAA tournament - highest seed ever
- Advanced to NCAA final four

Personal accomplishments:

- Field hockey Honda Sports Award finalist
- First-team NFHCA All-American
- NFHCA South Region Player of the Year
- Second straight selection to All-South Region team
- All-ACC selection; All-ACC Tournament team
- 27 goals in 24 games

Selenski is one of four repeat nominees for this award, and deservedly so as one of the elite field hockey players in the country. Her 27 goals place her sixth in the nation, and just one of two underclassmen in that top six. In a sport that runs second only to soccer in the race to be the lowest-scoring, it's a helluva number.

Perhaps most importantly as UVA had its most successful field hockey season ever, Selenski proved herself a big-gamer. She scored three goals in the NCAA tournament, including the OT game-winner in the quarterfinal against Michigan State; she also scored twice against Duke in the ACC tournament, the opening goal in an OT win over #4 Wake Forest, a goal and assist in a 2-0 win over #9 Boston College, and the Hoos' only goal in the regular-season loss to Maryland. One of the nation's best, and only a sophomore.

Friday, June 4, 2010

new old video up

Today, again, I decided to do less writing, more video editing, and the result is highlights of the 2007 Duke game on the videos page. It makes me sad that that was the last time we've beaten them in football.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

it's a party and you're all invited

One week from today is a Very Special Day. No, it's not the day your propeller beanie finally comes in the mail. It's my birthday, wheee! Or to get all technically correct about it, it's the birthday of this blog, which dates its founding to June 10, 2008. That means FOV is turning two years old.

It certainly has been an interesting two years, full of triumph, tragedy, and heartbreak. UVA is the most successful ACC athletic department since expansion, and that is awesome, and nearly half those ACC titles have come in the last two years. On the other hand, the last two seasons have both seen major coach firings. Al Groh and Dave Leitao were the big-cheese coaches when this blog began; they've been replaced by Mike London and Tony Bennett. (This also necessitates a change of banners, which I'm working on. My limited graphic design skills are combining forces with my limited software to produce a bunch of stuff I hate. Getting there, though.)

Interesting times for the blog itself, too. I've been so idiotically wrong at times, and prophetic at others. (It counts even if that foresight was the result of a visit to Emo Myspace Land.) I've been quoted at Yahoo and won interesting awards, the latter of which I'd like to think is for being bloody damn right.

Anyway, just like last year, birthday party means it's time to recognize the athletes that are out at the forefront, wearing the colors and representing the school. The 2nd annual FOV Cavalier of the Year Award, which is basically the prestige equivalent of a Nobel Athletics Prize and therefore only Hoos are eligible, is hereby announced. Last year's winner was baseball's Danny Hultzen, a worthy awardee, and he returns as a nominee this year as well. The twelve nominees, in alphabetical order, are:

Robby Andrews (track)
Ken Clausen (lacrosse)
Drew Courtney/Michael Shabaz (tennis)
Chris Henrich (wrestling)
Danny Hultzen (baseball)
Brittany Kalkstein (lacrosse)
Lauren Perdue (swimming)
Diego Restrepo (soccer)
Scot Robison (swimming)
Paige Selenski (field hockey)
Sarah Tacke (softball)
Monica Wright (basketball)

Here's the format: over the next couple weeks, I'll be profiling these standout athletes for you with a summary of their accomplishments this season, two at a time and in a random order. Just about every one of them has earned some kind of hardware or individual recognition for their exploits. When I'm done with the summaries, a poll will go up on the right-hand side. I determine the nominees, but you the readers determine the winner. Hultzen was indeed the people's choice last year, and I must say you chose wisely. The power will again be in your hands; do not use it for evil.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Charlottesville regional preview

No traveling for the Hoos this year, at least not for a couple weeks. The reward for being one of the top 8 teams in the NCAA baseball tournament is to host a four-team regional, and a super-regional if they make it out of the weekend. The only puzzling decision is making UVA the #5 seed instead of the top-3 seed they deserved, but it's been pretty much confirmed that everyone who knows anything about baseball thinks that's retarded. (Ratcliffe at the CDP says we got "the fuzzy end of the lollipop" which sounds like the weirdest G-rated euphemism ever for something very X-rated. Use your imagination.)

That being said, it's not a bad draw. Here's a preview of the three teams coming to Charlottesville this weekend:

Ole Miss

You recognize the name. You won't really recognize the team. Last year's Rebel squad was good enough to be in Omaha had they been maybe a little more fortunate on the draw. That team could hit and had plenty of quality options behind Drew Pomeranz on the mound. This team still has Pomeranz, but the hitting and the pitching isn't nearly up to snuff with last year's team. They ended up with a middling finish in the SEC, the result of a really maddening season in which they would do things like sweep powerhouse LSU but drop a series to doormat Tennessee. You're always in for a fight when you take on an SEC team in the NCAAs, but as #2 seeds go, we could have had a worse draw.

Possible lineup:

CF Tim Ferguson (.301-8-33)
3B Zach Miller (.279-2-46)
RF Matt Smith (.344-12-51)
DH Matt Snyder (.343-10-33)
LF Taylor Hashman (.307-9-40)
2B Alex Yarbrough (.285-3-37)
1B Miles Hamblin (.225-6-39)
SS Kevin Mort (.279-2-22)
C Taylor Hightower (.285-0-17)


RHP Drew Pomeranz (8-2, 2.21)
RHP Aaron Barrett (7-4, 4.16)
RHP David Goforth (1-5, 8.41)
RHP Rory McKean (4-2, 5.65)


LHP Matt Crouse (5-1, 3.12)
RHP Trent Rothlin (3-4, 4.43)
RHP Eric Callender (4-1, 5.83)
LHP Matt Tracy (4-3, 5.98)
RHP Brett Huber (2-0, 2.54, 12 SV)

Ole Miss against the ACC: no games

The lineup is largely conjecture; as you can see, Ole Miss has struggled to find any consistency from the bottom half. In some cases they have two players to choose from at a certain position: one that can't hit for contact and one that has no power. And of the seven players with .300 or greater batting averages from last year, four are gone and one was Miller, for whom the bottom dropped out this year.

Since Davenport qualifies as a pitcher's park - smaller than Ole Miss's Swayze Field in the alleys and out to center - I think we'll see Ole Miss lean toward contact hitters, so you might also see backup outfielder Tanner Mathis in the lineup against right-handers.

As for the pitchers, there's conflicting information as to who'll get the call on Friday for Ole Miss. Might as well go with the direct quote from Rebels' coach Mike Bianco, who says top-ten-pick-in-waiting Drew Pomeranz will get the start against St. John's. That means the Hoos, if UVA and Ole Miss win, will face Aaron Barrett. And it means Barrett will have to go against Danny Hultzen, as O'Connor has tabbed Cody Winiarski to start on Friday. (The right choice: if we can't beat the #147 team in the country with any of our weekend starters, we'll never get to Omaha anyway.)

After Pomeranz and Barrett, though, the rotation is almost totally worthless. The Rebels missed out on a lot of sweeps - including one against SEC punching bag Georgia - because they have no third starter at all. If the series holds true to seeding form and UVA faces Ole Miss in a championship game on Sunday, the hitters will be absolutely salivating at the prospect of a few at-bats each against a used-up Ole Miss pen. With Pomeranz going on Friday, a UVA-Ole Miss matchup should be in the cards for Saturday, and the Rebels don't have the bats to chase Hultzen nor the arms to win any games after Saturday.

St. John's

Dangerous matchup for Ole Miss here, as the Johnnies can hit and have one quality pitcher. They caught a break on the schedule by not having to play regular-season champ UConn, but nevertheless had to get past the Huskies for the Big East championship, which they did. Ace Kyle Hansen pitched into the 7th inning against UConn after having gone eight full frames just four days earlier.

A lot of the Storm's best players are freshman, including Hansen and masher extraordinaire Jeremy Baltz. Not good for future Big East opponents, but here's hoping experience and guile plus a loud Davenport win out in any potential UVA-SJU matchup.

Possible lineup:

CF Scott Ferrara (.282-1-29)
RF Jimmy Parque (.352-4-44)
SS Joe Panik (.383-8-48)
LF Jeremy Baltz (.393-20-74)
3B Greg Hopkins (.367-6-55)
2B Matt Wessinger (.284-4-43)
1B Paul Karmas (.329-8-52)
DH Sean O'Hare (.352-1-29)
C Joe Witkowski (.217-0-8)


RHP Kyle Hansen (8-1, 3.09)
RHP Bruce Kern (6-5, 5.91)
RHP Nick Cenatiempo (1-1, 6.34)
RHP Matt Carasiti (7-4, 5.88)


LHP Kevin Kilpatrick (1-1, 3.57)
RHP Stephen Rivera (4-2, 3.65)
RHP Ryan Cole (3-1, 3.96)
LHP Sean Hagan (4-1, 4.74)
RHP Daniel Burawa (1-0, 2.78, 11 SV)

St. John's against the ACC: lost to UNC 8-2, beat Boston College 17-9

Extrapolate Jeremy Baltz's numbers out to a 162-game MLB season and you get 56 HRs and 207 RBIs. Jeesh. 20 and 74 are damn good for major leaguers, never mind someone who's only played 58 games in his entire college career. Do not make a mistake pitching to Baltz.

St. John's plays in a bandbox, however: about 320 down the lines and just 380 to straightaway center. They're going to have an extremely tough road in this regional: first Drew Pomeranz, then likely Danny Hultzen if they get past Pomeranz, all in an unfamiliar pitcher's park.

And after Hansen in the rotation - nothing. They have a good bullpen; important because starting pitchers like Cenatiempo have a nasty habit of giving up a lot of hits and not pitching deep into games. Rivera and Kilpatrick are the long-relief types and they figure to get a lot of work this weekend.

If St. John's is the Saturday opponent, Kern will likely oppose the Hoos. He's a better pitcher than that ERA would indicate; decent strikeout pitcher, but in the end nothing worse than UVA's seen in ACC competition, and no match for Hultzen. This is a rotation even thinner than Ole Miss's, but the bullpen is better. Even so, if St. John's is going to win games this weekend, they'll need to be by scores of 12-8. And if they're going to win the whole regional, they'll have to do as they did in the Big East tournament and pitch Hansen on short rest. If SJU manages to make it to Monday for a winner-take-all game, don't be surprised to see them trot him out there.


The baseball committee thinks all #4 seeds are equal, and assigns them to regionals by pure geography. Thus, VCU. The Rams have the only .400 hitter in the regional other than Keith Werman, but might also go the entire weekend without hitting a home run. You want a light-hitting team? VCU is it: 33 home runs all year, and 20 of them hit by two players.

Possible lineup:

CF Matt Leskiw (.270-0-14)
2B Richard Gonzalez (.391-0-37)
3B Joe Van Meter (.433-10-72)
1B Brent Mikionis (.332-10-50)
RF John Lenherr (.293-2-35)
SS Nick Kime (.250-0-10)
LF Paul Nice (.278-2-29)
C Taylor Perkins (.306-2-30)
DH Doug Otto (.281-4-33)


RHP Seth Cutler-Voltz (8-3, 3.20)
RHP Kyle Haynes (3-3, 5.40)
LHP Ryan Farrar (4-5, 8.14)
LHP Michael Graham (4-4, 7.36)


RHP Jonathan Watson (4-2, 2.78)
RHP Kyle Pelchy (2-0, 4.12)
LHP Brennan Huelse (1-1, 3.54)
RHP Robbie Andrews (1-2, 3.18, 9 SV)

VCU against the ACC: lost to Maryland 7-2, lost to UVA 10-5

One month to the day of the regional opener against VCU, UVA was playing a weekday game against these same Rams. The Hoos won 10-5, scoring runs off of every pitcher VCU sent to the mound, and Branden Kline gave up four runs in six innings for the win. VCU actually hit two home runs in that game. I haven't bothered to check if that was their only multi-homer game all year, but it's possible. Get through VCU's 3 and 4 hitters and the ball is not at all likely to leave the yard.

VCU will throw Seth Cutler-Voltz against us, and he's got more than just a cool name going for him. SCV is coming off two complete-game wins in a row, and any hope of an upset lies with his right arm. The thing is, though, Cutler-Voltz has yet to throw against anyone worth talking about, and no, JMU doesn't count. Fellow tournament 4-seed Bethune-Cookman is the only opponent resembling a difficult team on Cutler-Voltz's resume, and they shelled him.

Right-hander Winiarski should match up well against VCU's lineup, which figures to trot out just two lefties and no switch-hitters. VCU's non-home-run-hitting lineup is also a better matchup for Cody than the other lineups in the regional, as he's a soft-tosser and has a much greater tendency than our other pitchers to give up home runs. But the bottom line is this: Cody is a weekend starter, and if we can't beat a four-seed, #147-RPI team with a weekend starter, then Omaha was never going to happen anyway.

Outlook for UVA

Keith Werman and Franco Valdes may not have been everyday starters this year, but chances are we'll never see a southpaw this weekend, so look for both to get plenty of at-bats this weekend. Along with Dan Grovatt and Jarrett Parker, that's a solid number of lefties to send to the plate against all these right-handers we'll see; first Cutler-Voltz, then Kern or Barrett, and then whatever poor schlub and his 6+ ERA has to face this lineup after that.

The biggest game is the second one. It's good to be the king; the 1 seed has the luxury of being able to hold back their ace for Saturday, expecting that it won't take your top pitcher to beat Friday's opponent. A win on Saturday either gives us a one-win (vice three-in-a-row) path to victory, or it (heaven forbid we end up in this situation) staves off elimination, so having Hultzen available for that game is huge. Especially if it's against St. John's and their murderer's row.

This is set up very, very nicely for UVA to win. The difference in pitching staffs is a mile wide. No, I'm not spoiled by looking at our own; there are plenty of teams that didn't make this tournament that have deeper and better pitching staffs than the three that got sent to Charlottesville. Even if we have to play Sunday morning in an elimination game, by that time our opponent will have burned through just about every worthwhile pitcher and we'll have Robert Morey. And if we go 2-0 on Friday and Saturday, it's over; some poor used-up staff is going to have to try and win two in a row against Morey and then (probably) Kline. Ain't happening. If we go 2-0, the third game will be a slaughter.

But to get to 2-0, the bats need to perk up. The Miami game was a great reassurance, because the rest of the ACC tournament and a few of the weekends prior were starting to see things go cold at the plate. Still - this weekend could be just the tonic, especially if we never see Drew Pomeranz.