The 2024 season is the fifth for Drew Dickinson as pitching coach on Brian O’Connor’s staff. Prior to his arrival at Virginia he spent eight years on staff at his alma mater, Illinois.
In the last three full seasons (2021, 2022, 2023), the Cavalier pitching staff has been one of the most steady and productive units in all of college baseball. UVA’s team ERA of 3.81 over the last three years is the fourth lowest of any program in the country and the lowest in the ACC. Virginia has fanned 2,111 batters, the most in the ACC and seventh-most in the nation.
UVA YEAR BY YEAR
In 2023 Virginia boasted one of the top pitching staffs in the country en route to the program’s second College World Series appearance in three seasons. The Cavalier hurlers boasted a 3.81 ERA, the fourth-lowest in the country. It marked the first time UVA ranked in the top-5 in ERA since the 2014 season. Virginia finished in the top-10 in the nation in strikeout-to-walk ratio (5th – 3.09) and walks allowed per nine innings (8th – 3.19). Lefthander Connelly Early, a 2023 fifth round pick of the Boston Red Sox, and Brian Edgington each garnered third team All-ACC honors. Early was also listed as an All-American by three different publications after matching the program’s single-season wins mark of 12. The Cavalier arms littered the NCAA postseason with outstanding pitching efforts including a complete game, 11-strikeout performance from Edgington against Duke in game three of the Charlottesville Super Regional. The Charlottesville Regional final was capped by 10-strikeout performance by Early who went on to earn Regional MVP honors. Virginia allowed just five combined runs in three NCAA Regional games, the fewest of any team in the tournament field. UVA starting pitchers produced a quality start (6.0 IP, 3 or less ER) in six of the eight NCAA Tournament games.
Dickinson’s third-season calling pitches saw Virginia return to the top-20 in the country in ERA for the second-straight season. The Cavaliers 2022 staff boasted a 3.99 ERA, the 14th lowest in the country. The Cavaliers ranked second in the ACC in ERA (3.99) and hits allowed per nine innings (7.92), while sporting the league’s third-lowest WHIP (1.36). Three Cavalier arms were selected in the 2022 MLB First Year Player draft, headlined by third-rounder Nate Savino. After primarily appearing out of the bullpen at Southern California, graduate transfer Brian Gursky morphed into one of the top starters in the league, earning Second Team All-ACC honors and eventually signed a free agent deal with the New York Mets..
In 2021 the Virginia pitching staff was the backbone of Virginia’s run to its fifth College World Series. Under Dickinson, UVA hurlers shattered the program’s decade-old record for strikeouts in a season with 687. The total was the most in the ACC and ranked fourth overall in the NCAA. UVA returned to the NCAA top-20 in earned run average, posting a team ERA of 3.62, the 14th best in the nation.
Dickinson’s 2021 staff was headlined by consensus All-American and First Team All-ACC selection Andrew Abbott who was converted to a starting pitcher prior to his senior campaign. The lefthander led the ACC and ranked third in the nation in strikeouts with 162. He pitched seven innings of the program’s seventh no-hitter in which he struck out 16 batters against Wake Forest on May 14. Reliever Blake Bales was one of three pitchers nationally to be named a finalist for the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award and was the third finalist in program history.
Abbott went on to be selected in the second round (53rd overall) by the Cincinnati Reds. Including Abbott, four Cavalier pitchers – Griff McGarry (Philadelphia Phillies), Mike Vasil (New York Mets) and Zack Messinger (New York Yankees) were selected in the first 13 rounds of the 2021 MLB Draft, the most of any ACC school and tied for the second most in the country.
The 2021 postseason was marred by elite pitching performances including a combined 24-strikeout effort by McGarry and Brandon Neeck against No. 15 Old Dominion in the NCAA Columbia Regional. It was the third most strikeouts in a nine-inning game in NCAA baseball history.
Despite a shortened season in 2020, the Cavalier pitching staff already was quick to make strides under Dickinson’s leadership. Weekend starters McGarry and Vasil ranked both in the top 15 in the ACC in ERA and closer Stephen Schoch was tied for second in the league (8th in the NCAA) with five saves. As a staff, Virginia accumulated 199 strikeouts, tied for the 10th most in the NCAA.
PRIOR TO VIRGINIA
Dickinson helped the Illinois pitching staff to an unprecedented amount of success during his tenure. Under his guidance, the Illini established new school single-season records for ERA and strikeouts. Dickinson has coached two Big Ten Pitchers of the Year, 15 MLB Draft picks (including two first rounders) and four-All-Americans. The success on the mound helped Illinois win 60.3 percent of its games over the last six years (202-133-1), one of the Illini’s best runs ever.
Illinois has developed a postseason pedigree over the past nine seasons, qualifying for four NCAA Tournaments and the 2015 NCAA Super Regionals. The Illini were crowned Big 10 Champions in 2015 after posting a 50-10 overall record with a 20-1 mark in league play. In that season, Dickinson’s pitching staff led the way with nation’s fifth-lowest team ERA (2.55), fourth-lowest WHIP (1.13) and fifth-lowest strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Following a seven-year professional career, Dickinson began his coaching career as volunteer assistant on the Illini staff while finishing his communications degree at Illinois in 2009. After a brief stint as a pitching coach in professional baseball, he returned as the Illinois volunteer assistant before being promoted to assistant coach in 2012.
One of the best pitchers in Illinois history, Dickinson was selected in the 28th round by the Oakland Athletics in the 2002 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. He was a two-time, Third-Team All-American by Collegiate Baseball (2001 & 2002) and named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year as a junior. His 30 career wins are the most ever at Illinois and Dickinson ranks in the top-five in school history in career-conference wins (2nd), career strikeouts (3rd), single-season strikeouts (3rd & 5th) and career innings pitched (5th).
Dickinson was a two-time All-Big Ten first-team selection and reached the double-A level with the Oakland A’s. He was a 2003 Midwest League all-star and was named a Top 25 Prospect in the A’s system in 2004.
Dickinson married his wife Michelle in 2015, the couple has a son, Drasen.