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January 28, 1999

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – College baseball season got underway two weeksago when Arizona State hosted the University of Utah for a three-gameseries. Friday, the 1999 campaign gets underway for the University ofVirginia as the Cavaliers take part in the ACC/Disney Blast.

Virginia, coming off its third consecutive winning season at28-26-1, opens with Jacksonville University at 3 p.m. Friday. The game willbe televised on Home Team Sports (HTS). The weekend continues for theWahoos with a 11 a.m. contests Saturday against No. 12 Auburn and Sundayagainst No. 32 Oklahoma.

“Obviously we’re pretty excited about the beginning of a new year,”head coach Dennis Womack said. “We’re really a long way from knowing howgood this team will be.

“The competition this weekend will be very good. These are threeteams that will probably each give us a different challenge. We are justlooking to play well and see how our players respond to the short amount ofpractice time we’ve had.”

The Cavaliers return three regular starters in the field from lastseason: junior shortstop/closer Tim LaVigne; senior right fielder JulianGonzalez; and junior catcher/first baseman Josh Bowling. Sophomorecatcher/designated hitter Mark Rueffert, who led the team in battingaverage at .364 in 24 starts last season, also returns.

Womack’s pitching staff is virtually intact from a year ago. Onlyone letterman was lost on the mound with eight returning.

UVa will run up against a Jacksonville squad that posted a 31-27record in 1998 as a member of the Sun Belt Conference. This season, headcoach Terry Alexander’s team is a member of the Trans America AthleticConference. Center fielder Kirk Asche should lead the charge at the platefor the Dolphins after hitting .324 and leading the team with 13 home runsand 19 two-bagges last season.

Southeastern Conference powerhouse Auburn enters the season rankedNo. 12 by Collegiate Baseball; ironically, that’s the same spot in whichthe publication put the Tigers at the end of last season when the Plainsmenwere one game shy of a trip to Omaha.

Head coach Hal Baird’s team finished 46-18 last season and returnsa solid core of leadership, especially on the mound where two preseasonAll-America selections in righty Brent Shoening and Southpaw Hayden Gliemmoreturn.

Sunday’s opponent, Oklahoma, enters the campaign ranked No. 32 byCollegiate Baseball, but as high as 27th by the Baseball Weekly/ESPN ABCApoll. The Sooners, who were 42-20 last year under head coach Larry Cochell,look to be a strong contender in the Big 12’s South Division again thisseason – especially with the return of Collegiate Baseball preseasonsecond-team All-America first baseman Casey Bookout (.405, 26 HRs, 76 RBIin 1998).

Also representing the ACC here this weekend is No. 2 Georgia Techand Maryland.

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