By Jeff White (

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The weather wasn’t overly inviting, but fans turned out in force for the University of Virginia baseball team’s season opener, and they saw both the familiar and the new Friday at Disharoon Park.

Among the players back from the UVA team that advanced to last year’s College World Series are Griff O’Ferrall, Anthony Stephan, Ethan Anderson, Casey Suacke, Harrison Didawick, Henry Godbout and Jack O’Connor. Each started against Hofstra, and veterans Angelo Tonas and Kevin Jaxel pitched in relief. But the game also marked the Virginia debuts of Henry Ford, Jacob Ference, Eric Becker, Bobby Whalen, Blake Barker and Aidan Teel.

“It was pretty cool to see a lot of new guys get their opportunities and come out with a win,” head coach Brian O’Connor said after the 14th-ranked Cavaliers rallied to defeat the Pride 10-8 before a crowd of 3,575, the second-largest for an opener in program history.

Ford and Becker are freshmen, and Ference (Division III Salisbury), Whalen (Indiana) and Barker (Division II Seton Hill) are transfers.

Teel, of course, isn’t technically a new Wahoo. He enrolled at UVA in the summer of 2022 and was on the team last season, but he never got the opportunity to play alongside his big brother, Kyle. Aidan tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow while pitching for Mahwah (N.J.) High School in April 2022. The injury required Tommy John surgery, and Aidan missed last season while rehabbing.

The Boston Red Sox selected Kyle Teel, an All-America catcher for Virginia, with the 14th pick in last year’s Major League Baseball draft, and he’s now pursuing his pro career. The Hoos plan to use the younger Teel as a two-way player, and the 6-foot, 195-pound right-hander came in to pitch in a pressure situation Friday. Hofstra trailed 10-7 but had runners on first and second with only one out.

Teel gave up an RBI single to the first batter he faced but quickly settled down. He recorded back-to-back strikeouts to seal the win for UVA.

“I wasn’t really sure what my first appearance was going to be,” Teel said, “but I couldn’t be happier that they put the trust in me to do that.”

On a day when Hofstra totaled 15 hits off five UVA pitchers, Teel’s contribution was crucial.

“We’ve got a lot of confidence in Aidan Teel,” O’Connor said. “He’s earned that role in the preseason and he’s got a really good arm. He’s got guts. He’s a competitor. So that was what we needed. We needed somebody to step up and finish the game for us and he did a terrific job.”

O’Ferrall said he watched Teel “all fall and preseason, and he just has killed it. He works his butt off, and he obviously has a crazy amount of talent. I was very excited for him to be on that spot. There was no part of me that had any doubt for sure.”

Aidan Teel

Waiting in the stands next to the Cavaliers’ dugout to congratulate Teel afterward was his proud father. Garett Teel, who spent five seasons in the Dodgers’ organization as a player and a coach, has made the drive to Mahwah to Charlottesville more times than he can count, and he’ll be a regular at the Dish for the fourth straight season.

“Dad loves this team just as much as any anybody does,” Aidan Teel said, “and he’s the biggest supporter of not just me, but everyone on this team. To know I was able to go out on the mound today and pitch in front of him for the first time in a long time, it was pretty awesome.”

Mahwah is about 365 miles from Charlottesville. For Ford’s family, the drive to Disharoon Park is considerably shorter. Charlottesville is his hometown, and he was three months old when he attended his first game at the Dish—then known as Davenport Field—to watch his uncle, Kevin Ford, play for the Cavaliers.

Henry Ford doesn’t remember anything from that occasion, but he has vivid memories of the 2011 game in which Chris Taylor’s walk-off single sent Virginia to the College World Series for the second time in program history.

“I’ll never forget that,” Ford said Friday night.

He’s sure to treasure memories of his UVA debut, too. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Ford, who attended St. Anne’s-Belfield School before transferring to the Baylor School in Tennessee, was Virginia’s designated hitter. He batted cleanup, a significant assignment for a freshman in a storied program.

“He’s earned that,” O’Connor said. “He’s earned it because he’s got a great approach. He’s a talented player, but he has a very mature understanding of what he needs to do to be successful, and certainly that showed true today.”

Ford went 2-for-4 with two RBI. His two-run single in the sixth inning tied the game at 4-4, and he led off the eighth with another single.

“He’s a stud,” said junior shortstop Griff O’Ferrall, a preseason All-American. “He’s just a hitter. He had a great preseason for us, works his butt off, and he’s obviously going to get a lot of opportunities for us this year. And if we can get someone like that, someone young, in the middle of our lineup doing that type of damage, we’re gonna be in good shape, for sure.”

Henry Ford

O’Ferrall, whose only home run last season came against Duke in the NCAA super regional at Disharoon Park, equaled his 2023 total in his first at-bat Friday night, powering a ball over the wall in left field. He set the program’s single-season record for hits with 108 last year, and O’Ferrall was 2-for-4 in the opener.

Stephan, a junior, also had two hits, and Didawick, a sophomore, belted a two-run homer in the sixth. Virginia trailed 4-1 after five innings but scored six runs in the sixth and three in the eighth.

“A lot of guys stepped up,” O’Ferrall said. “Aidan Teel in his first outing, it was awesome for him to come in. We knew the ball club we were dealing with was a really good squad, so we’re just happy to get the win.”

The Cavaliers have won 30 straight regular-season games against non-conference opponents. They’ll look to extend that streak to 31 on Saturday, when the teams resume their series with a 1 p.m. game at the Dish.

“It’s awesome to be back in this stadium,” O’Connor said. “This is where we finished last year before we went to Omaha, and so it was great to open up here at home.”

For Ford, to be on the field and not in the stands at the Dish was a new experience, and it was one he loved.

“It was electric,” he said of the reaction to his two-run single, “and to see the dugout hyped and the crowd hyped, it was definitely fun.”

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