By Jeff White
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Baseball, UVa coach Brian O’Connor likes to say, is a game meant to be played nearly every day, so players can keep their skills finely honed. And in a typical week during the season, his team will play five games in seven days.
After the Cavaliers face VCU in Richmond on Tuesday night, however, they won’t play again until May 13, when they begin a three-game series with ACC rival Miami at Davenport Field.
The spring semester ends Tuesday at UVa. Final exams begin Friday and run through May 13, with reading days Sunday and next Wednesday.
The Wahoos (42-5), ranked No. 1 nationally by Baseball America, could do without such an extended break. But O’Connor knows he can’t change the schedule, and so he doesn’t waste time worrying about it.
“You can look at this thing one of two ways,” O’Connor said Monday. “You can complain about it, or you can look at it and say, ‘This is a great opportunity for us.’
“Our guys come here, No. 1, to get one of the best educations in the country, and we’ve got to take care of that first. And then we’ve got to look at this as an opportunity to recharge our batteries for the big push coming out of final exams.
“So I don’t choose to look at it as a negative. I look at it as a positive, and that’s the way the players will look at it. We’ll get the exams done, and it’ll be like a new season for us.”
The players will be off Wednesday and Thursday. Then they’ll practice on two of the following three days, O’Connor said. The team is likely to be off Monday and Tuesday next week before reconvening to prepare for the Hurricanes’ visit.
Ideally, UVa would have all of its players at every practice during the exam period, “but it never works out that way,” O’Connor said. “Somebody may have to miss part of one of the practices or something, because they have an exam at that time.”
This is O’Connor’s eighth season at UVa, and his record is a staggering 358-123-1. In the three-game series that immediately follow final exams, though, Virginia’s combined record during that span is 11-10.
UVa went 1-2 against Florida State in 2004, 1-2 against Miami in 2005, 2-1 against North Carolina in 2006, 1-2 against NC State in 2007, 1-2 against North Carolina in 2008, 2-1 against Duke in 2009, and 3-0 against North Carolina last year.
“We’ve tried some different things [during finals],” O’Connor said, “and I believe that we’ve got the best plan in place now for, No. 1, the players to be successful in their exams and finish out this year strong academically, while also making sure from a baseball standpoint that they still stay sharp with their skills.
“We’ll have intense workouts. They’ll be high-energy workouts, trying to make it as game-realistic as possible, but they’ll be short and concise workouts. You want the players to keep their instincts and keep their edge, just because we’ve got something pretty special going on.”
Miami, which hosts Hofstra in a three-game series this weekend, is No. 17 in the latest Baseball America rankings. The Hurricanes’ games at Davenport Field are scheduled to start at 7 pm. on May 13, at noon on May 14, and at 12:30 p.m. on May 15.