CHARLOTTESVILLE — In an extended exhibition game Friday night, UVa’s baseball team crushed the Ontario Blue Jays at Davenport Field.
Brian O’Connor was happy to see his club win, of course, but the final score was not a major concern for the Cavaliers’ coach, who declined to release a box score afterward. O’Connor was more interested in seeing how Virginia’s younger players, especially the freshmen, handled themselves in that environment.
“The crowd that we got was unbelievable,” O’Connor said.
“I think any time there’s a really great crowd on hand, and you’re playing somebody else, there’s going to be a little bit of nerves and jitters from the young players, which is good, because now they’re representing the University of Virginia, and with that comes high expectations. So I was excited to see how they would handle that.
“Also, from a game-management standpoint, you get a chance to position your players in a game setting, all kinds of things that you don’t typically do every day in practice.”
Against the Blue Jays, O’Connor used his less experienced pitchers. Among those who impressed were freshmen Kyle Crockett, Ryan Ashooh and Artie Lewicki.
Another first-year pitcher, 6-6, 235-pound right-hander Tyler Skulina, wasn’t at his sharpest Friday night, but “I think Tyler’s really going to do good things here,” O’Connor said. “It’s an adjustment for players at this level, and I think that he’s going to really develop into something as we push along.”
As a freshman last season, right-hander Branden Kline went 5-1, with a 3.62 earned-run average. O’Connor noted, however, that at this time last year Kline was struggling to adjust to the college game.
“The reality is he didn’t do very well in the fall, but that’s why it’s the fall,” O’Connor said. “There’s a lot of development that happens between now and when the season rolls around.”
Redshirt sophomore Scott Silverstein, a 6-6, 230-pound left-hander, started on the mound for the Wahoos. Since the end of his senior season at St. John’s College High School in D.C., Silverstein has had two operations on his left shoulder, and he has yet to pitch in a game for UVa.
Silverstein threw two innings Friday night.
“I think that he’s pitched better this fall, but he was around the strike zone,” O’Connor said. “I think just getting him out there and starting that game with a crowd there was important for him to do. But I think he’s progressing along really well.”
A new NCAA rule requires teams to use bats that perform more like wood bats than the aluminum bats that have made college baseball so high-scoring in recent years.
UVa used the new bats Friday night. Its opponent did not.
“It’s interesting to see the difference in the bats,” O’Connor said. “[The Blue Jays] were using last year’s bats, and I can tell you in batting practice, when I’m watching them hit, man, the ball’s coming off the bat a lot harder than we see every day with the new bats.
“It’s still an aluminum bat, but the balls just don’t come off the bat as hard. Sure, we knocked a couple balls out of the ballpark still, but you’ve got to really square it up to get it. So I think you’re going to see it really impact college baseball.”
Among the many ‘Hoos who hit well in the exhibition game were junior Danny Hultzen, the reigning ACC pitcher of the year, and senior David Coleman, who started in left field. UVa’s plan is for Hultzen, an outstanding hitter in 2009, to get more at-bats in 2011.
“That was great to see,” O’Connor said. “We’re going to need those guys from an offensive standpoint, to have success.”
In the end, though, “I don’t think you can take much from the results of this game,” O’Connor said. “I think you can take more from the results of our Orange and Blue World Series than you can from this game. The reason that I play this game is just to create excitement. We’ve got a great group of fans that came out, and there’s some little jitterbugs for some of those guys. It’s good for them to have to go through that.”
Fans will have seven more chances to check out the team before the end of fall baseball. UVa’s annual Orange and Blue World Series starts Oct. 3 and runs through Oct. 17 at Davenport. The dates for the games can be found in this release.