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May 12, 2004

Talk about excitement. Last week-end, over 7,000 Cavalier fans filled Davenport field for a three game series against Florida State. Despite dropping two of the three games to the ‘Noles, coming off exam week and a few days of bad practices, the upstart Wahoos have put themselves in position for an ACC regular season championship.

“This is pretty exciting stuff,” Coach Brian O’Connor said during an interview on our flagship station, WINA. “I think the regular season title means a lot. You go through 24 games and fight to the finish. This is why I came to Charlottesville.”

UVA will entertain Wake Forest for a three game set beginning Thursday, May 13th. The Cavaliers are 15-6…just ahead of Georgia Tech and Clemson, two teams that also will hook up over the week-end. The Yellow Jackets are 12-5 in the ACC and the Tigers are 12-6. Tech still has a series against Maryland in College Park next week-end while Clemson has to travel to Duke.

“Anything can happen,” O’Connor said. “But I like our chances. The fact we are home should help and I think our guys all know how important this is.

Virgina is ranked 20th in the country by Baseball America and 10th by Collegiate Baseball magazine. Even though the so-called experts are predicting UVA will host one of the 16 regionals following the ACC Tournament, O’Connor would like to see a few more wins.

“We’re in good position, but we have lost three games due to bad weather. I can’t get anyone to play us and we can’t make the game up. “

UVA sits at 37-11 overall and would like to climb well over the 40 win mark – a college baseball measuring stick when discussing post season.

And with the importance of the Wake series, 8 Cavalier players will walk the lawn Sunday…guys like Joe Koshansky, Matt Street, and Kyle Werman.

“I know my guys are looking forward to graduation, but they want to finish this thing,” O’Connor said. “We have an opportunity to be playing baseball well into June and I think the team has focused on that.”

The players have done just that and during the year bought into a lot of things…6:30am workouts and runs, playing “small ball”, executing hit and runs and bunts to perfection, stealing bases, double steals…you name it…the Cavs have diagramed ways to win. I remember speaking with Koshansky before the season. He told me that the team was buying into the coaching change…never an easy thing to do in a college player’s career. However these guys have listened and learned.

“I can’t say enough about what this team has done,” O’Connor smiled. “They have been attentive and have played with a great attitude. I really can’t ask for much more.”

Take the Florida State series as an example. After UVA was beaten by Rhett James, a former junior college pitcher of the year who had a curve ball that hooked like an amusement ride, O’Connor told the team in the post season meeting to only think positive and realize what is on the horizon. He never dwelled on the negatives, and simply set the table for the next night when the Cavs erupted for 15 runs.

O’Connor has even practiced a game winning “pile on” at the plate simulating an advance to the College World Series.

“One day we were having an awful practice, and I just put us in a game ending situation, we executed a squeeze bunt for the regional title and the right to play in Omaha. We all celebrated at home plate by jumping on each other. I wanted the guys to feel what it was like.”

So…Wake Forest comes to town for three, and Virginia can accomplish something that hasn’t been done in 32 years -win a regular season title.

Maybe on Saturday, following the third game of the series, O’Connor will let all of us pile on at home plate.

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