If Virginia is going to make it back to the College World Series for the 3rd time in 4 years, no doubt the comparisons will be made to the 2009 team. No, the Hoos aren’t off to a 19-0 start and climbed the polls to #8 by this time 3 years ago. But events are unfolding down the road that could see the Hoos parallel that historic season.
To catch you guys up to speed, the Hoos are now 18-10-1 overall and 6-6 in the ACC. They are coming off a 1-2 weekend at NC State, that saw them lose a heartbreaker in Game 3 after mounting a Top 9 comeback. They get JMU (ugh…again) tonight before an Easter weekend with interesting Wake Forest (19-11, 5-7) at home before entertaining GW and UNC next weekend. If the ACC season would end today, they would be T-5 in the conference with GT and would own the tiebreaker, although the series later this year would be the determining factor. If you all remember, Virginia was the #6 seed in the ACC Tournament when they ran through Clemson, UNC, Duke, and FSU on their way to winning the league.
Another interesting piece of information that I love to look at is Bracketology. Yeah folks, it just doesn’t apply to basketball. Well the first shoe dropped yesterday from Kendall Rogers over at Perfect Game. Much to my pessimistic surprise, Virginia was squarely in the field, as a 2-seed in the Lexington Regional. What really threw me for a loop was the other teams in the regional. The host is #5 and owner of the best record in baseball, the Kentucky Wildcats of the always tough SEC. After us would be a Michigan State team that will either win or be runner up in the Big Ten. And to cap it off, they send Liberty out there, the team that spanked us a over the field last month 8-0. Again, in 2009, the NCAA gave us the biggest screw job on the face of the planet, sending a #7 ranked Hoos team, to #1 Irving to face UCI, San Diego State (S. Strasburg on mound), and former CWS champs Fresno State. Just more fun things to think about.
A couple of things are falling right for the Hoos to get them in the tournament. First off, Virginia’s RPI is 29, and if you are a NCAA basketball team, that usually gets you a 6 or 7 seed. Virginia has always benefited from a great RPI, well, at least for the past decade. With the number of quality teams in the ACC, the conference is always very high on the list. And with the league usually getting 6-8 teams in the field, that makes the Hoos about as good of a lock as you can get. On the field, Hoos are getting into a bit of a rhythm, at least on the front end. The starters (Silverstein, Kline, Lewicki) have been able to shell out 6-7 innings with fairly good consistency, and even Kline has been finding his stride as of late. At the plate, how about Derek Fisher? It took a little while to get him going this year, but he is now batting .305, with 5 HR and 26 RBI. He’s slugging .653, nearly 100 points higher than next best Jared King.
The two knocks right now has been from frequency of hitting and in closing out games. We seem to bat well in the first inning, take a break from 2-6, then start turing it on after that. Outside of upping my dosage of anxiety medicine, it is something other teams have been taking advantage of. Secondly, those close games we were winning last year when Kline would come in the game and close it out, haven’t happened. Hoos dropped games 2 and 3 at FSU and game 3 at NC State in the 8th or 9th innings and one to VT in 11. Right there is 4 games, and if 3 went our way, we would be at worst 3rd in the ACC.
My best advice for you Wahoos. It seems that if the Hoos can finish no worse than 6th in the ACC, then we can make the tourney. Rattle off a few wins in Greensboro, and we’ll be cooking. Good luck to the Hoos this weekend against Wake. Need that sweep.