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April 9, 2004

by Patrick Schuermann

Virginia baseball is having the team’s best start in years. The Cavaliers are riding a five game winning streak, and play host to the 23rd ranked Clemson Tigers (18-10, 6-0 in ACC), beginning Friday April 9, at 7:00 PM. With a current record of 26-7 (8-4 in ACC play), the team entered the Top 25 polls for the first time since 1996. The Cavaliers reached as high as 19th in the country (before losses to Old Dominion and UNC), and are currently ranked 27th according to Baseball Weekly.

Virginia made a major change to its baseball program in the offseason with the hiring of new head coach Brian O’Connor. O’Connor, an assistant for nine years at the University of Notre Dame (1995-2003), is one of the most exciting young head coaches in college baseball today. His resume speaks for itself – 2001 National Assistant Coach of the Year (American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) and Baseball America) and 2003 AFLAC National Assistant Coach of the Year. At Notre Dame, O’Connor worked with the pitching staff and specialized in recruitment, getting the nationally ranked number one recruiting class in 2001 and the number six class in 2003. Coach O’Connor shares his thoughts on this year’s Virginia team.

“Every team you coach is different. The 2004 Cavaliers have qualities that are critical in order to be a championship team. First, we have excellent veteran leadership. The veteran players have taken responsibility for this team. Secondly, we have a group of players who have a tremendous passion for the game. They embrace challenges and this is evident in our 14-3 road record. Lastly, the players and coaches have set very high expectations for this team and our program. With these expectations comes a high level of commitment and dedication. Up to this point, this team has lived up to these expectations in how they go about their business everyday.”

One major factor leading to Virginia’s success has been the team’s ability to win on the road. Virginia has compiled a tremendous 14-3 road record this year. Virginia baseball has come up huge on road trips this year, notching major road victories that include knocking off Georgia Tech in Atlanta. The Cavaliers also snapped George Mason’s eighteen home game win streak (dating back to March 25, 2003) with their come-from-behind 9-5 victory on March 24. However, Coach O’Connor still looks to the series in Atlanta as a catalyst for Virginia’s success this year.

“The three game sweep at Georgia Tech was big. This proved to our players that we can win big games on the road.”

Senior leadership has also been a key to the success of this Cavalier team. Virginia has had great performances from their veteran players this year. Virginia starting pitcher Anderw Dobies has thrown two complete games in two consecutive starts (against Duke and NC State). Virginia won the games by a combined 14 points.

“Joe Koshansky, Scott Headd, and Andrew Dobies all have been leaders on the field by the way they go about their business. We have a veteran ball club so we have many players who are tremendous leaders.”

Come support Virginia as they take on the 23rd ranked Clemson Tigers April 9-11 at Davenport Field. For tickets, call (800) 542-8821 or (434) 924-8821. Tickets are also available on game day beginning two hours prior to the first pitch. Tickets are $6.00 for adults and $4.00 for youth and senior citizens. UVa faculty/staff may purchase tickets for $4.00 with a valid UVa employee ID.

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