2013 Virginia Baseball Season Preview
Feb. 12, 2013
Who’s Back in the Field
Of its 19 returning letterwinners, Virginia has five field starters back from 2012, including all three starting outfielders, Derek Fisher (.288 BA, 7 HR, 50 RBI), Brandon Downes (.321, 7 2B, 22 RBI) and Colin Harrington (.305, 5 2B, 28 RBI). Three of the four starting infielders left for professional baseball, with first baseman Jared King (.263, 21 XBH, 44 RBI) serving as the lone holdover.
Sophomore catcher Nate Irving (.279 BA, 35 RBI, 415 OBP) has a full season under his belt after starting 49 of the 59 games behind the plate in 2012.
Virginia will unveil a new-look infield, as senior Reed Gragnani (2B) and sophomores Branden Cogswell (SS) and Nick Howard (3B) are slated to join King. They replace four-year starter Keith Werman (2B), two-year starter Chris Taylor (SS) and Stephen Bruno (3B), who was third in the ACC in batting last year at .370.
Gragnani has battled injuries the past two years, but he hit .362 in 20 games (19 starts) last year. Cogswell (41 GP, .260, 4 3B, 15 RBI) and Howard (26 GP, .346, 6 RBI) each saw significant action last year while serving in a backup capacity.
Plenty of Depth on Offense, Defense
Virginia sports a lot of options on offense and in the field. Infielder Kenny Towns (28 games, .294, 12 RBI) emerged in mid-April last year and provides the Cavaliers an option at DH as well as first and third base.
Mike Papi (35 games, .283, 17 RBI) was sidelined with an injury in the second half of the 2012 season which derailed his strong start. He will see time in the outfield and also could get time at first base.
Freshmen John LaPrise and George Ragsdale and sophomore Thomas Woodruff each provide the Cavaliers with more options on the infield.
Freshmen Joe McCarthy and Rob Bennie are both former multi-sport high school standouts who will provide a physical presence at the plate while spending time in the outfield.
Behind the Dish
The Cavaliers lacked depth behind the plate last year, but that won’t be an issue this year. Irving is the established veteran there and will be joined by a pair of rookies, Robbie Coman and Scott Williams.
Irving caught over 80 percent of the innings last year but should get more relief from the freshman duo.
Who’s Back on Pitching Staff
Virginia’s pitching staff will be anchored by junior Kyle Crockett and redshirt senior Scott Silverstein. Crockett was the Cavaliers’ go-to southpaw out of the bullpen last year, going 5-2 with a 2.25 ERA as batters hit just .204 against him in 60 innings (32 appearances).
In his first extended action on the mound after a pair of shoulder surgeries, Silverstein went 2-5 with a 4.48 ERA in 15 starts last year. He started the season strong, but was inconsistent through much of the second half of the season.
Sophomore righty Nick Howard will start at third base but also will be key on the bump. He went 3-0 with a 2.81 ERA in 19 outings out of the bullpen last year; batters hit just .221 against him.
Junior RHP Austin Young (1-1, 21 GP, 4.86 ERA) saw significant action last year and will be counted on out of the bullpen once again.
LHP Nathaniel Abel pitched in seven games last year and will see time out of the bullpen as well this year.
A pair of starters from the 2012 rotation, RHPs Whit Mayberry and Artie Lewicki, each are rehabbing from arm surgeries, and their return dates are still unknown.
Youth Aplenty on Mound
Virginia’s pitching staff will have plenty of new faces, with eight rookie pitchers on the roster. The roles that each will play still are not certain as the season begins.
Virginia strengthed its staff with the addition of four left-handers: Nathan Kirby, Brandon Waddell, David Rosenberger and Kevin Doherty. Redshirt freshman Brett Lisle also provides UVa another lefty option.
Trey Oest, Josh Sborz, Cameron Tekker and Tyler Carrico all are right-handed options for the Cavaliers.
Catchers Robbie Coman and Scott Williams also could see time on the mound.
Changes at Davenport Field
Davenport Field has undergone several changes during the offseason. Most notably, a new sand-based playing surface has been installed. After removing the previous surface, crews installed a new irrigation and field drainage system (the previous field had no drainage system).
The $1 million project also included the installation of a new synthetic warning track that will run in foul territory between the foul poles as well as new dugout flooring surfaces and a new FieldTurf collar behind home plate.
Home plate was moved in about five feet, creating more foul territory down the lines as well as new field dimensions: 332-370-404-370-332.
In separate projects, new chairback seats were added to replace the grandstand bleachers and a new video board was erected.
O’Connor Fourth Among Active Coaches in Win Percentage
Virginia head coach Brian O’Connor is 411-149-2 (.734) in nine seasons at the helm of the Cavaliers. O’Connor’s 73.4 percent winning percentage ranks fourth among active Division I head coaches behind only North Carolina’s Mike Fox (.744), Florida State’s Mike Martin (.743) and Wichita State’s Gene Stephenson (.735).
Hot Ticket at Davenport Field
UVa fans continue to fill Davenport Field, as more than 110,000 fans have attended Cavalier games each of the past three seasons. UVa has ranked among the top 20 programs nationally in attendance each of the last three years.
UVa ranked 15th nationally in total attendance (112,281) and 19th in average attendance (3,208) last year.
Davenport Field will seat 4,980 per game, slightly down this year after the addition of more chairback seats in place of the bleacher seats in the grandstand. The entire reserved section in the grandstand is sold out once again this year.
2013 Schedule Details
The Cavaliers’ 54-game schedule will be challenging as usual, featuring 21 games against teams that qualified for the 2012 NCAA Tournament, 12 of which will come on the road.
UVa has home series slated against Florida State (2012 CWS), NC State (Super Regionals), Miami (Regionals), Maryland and Duke.
On the road, the Cavaliers will play East Carolina, a 2012 NCAA Regional team, in a three-game non-conference series to open the season. UVa has ACC series scheduled against 2012 Super Regional participant Clemson, 2012 Regional qualifiers Georgia Tech and North Carolina as well as Wake Forest and Virginia Tech.
UVa will play three of its first four ACC series at the friendly confines of Davenport Field. The Cavaliers are scheduled to play 34 home games and 20 on the road.