By Jeff White (

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The University of Virginia baseball team will close the regular season with six consecutive games against ACC opponents, all at Disharoon Park: three against NC State this weekend and three against Virginia Tech next week.

“We have a great opportunity out in front of us,” head coach Brian O’Connor said.

Ranked No 10 nationally, UVA is 36-12 overall after posting a run-rule win over George Washington in a Wednesday matinee at Disharoon Park. The Wahoos, 14-10 in ACC play, totaled 20 hits and blasted six home runs en route to an 18-5 victory.

“Certainly it was a great offensive day,” O’Connor said.

In two games against GW (26-22) this season, Virginia has scored 44 runs. The Hoos figure to encounter more resistance from the Wolfpack (27-18, 13-10) and the Hokies (31-15, 13-11), and the stakes will be higher.

The Cavaliers are on track to host a four-team regional on the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament, and they can solidify their position with a strong finish to the regular season.

His players know, O’Connor said, that “when you take care of business this time of the year it affords you some special opportunities, potentially, after the ACC tournament.”

In 2023, Virginia swept each of its final two regular-season series, earned a top-eight seed in the NCAA tournament, and then captured a regional and a super regional at the Dish to advance to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.

The Hoos “flipped the switch and [had] two sweeps in a row to kind of put us in a position to have the great ride we had last year,” junior Ethan Anderson recalled Wednesday. “So hopefully, a lot of the veteran guys can pound that in the minds of the new guys this year of how important these next two weeks are.”

Led by Jake Gelof (23), Kyle Teel (13) and Ethan O’Donnell (13), Virginia hit a program-record 83 home runs last season. With many more games left to play, the Cavaliers have shattered that mark this year. Henry Ford missed the GW game with an ankle injury—O’Connor expects him back for the NC State series—but the Hoos had plenty of power without the 6-foot-5, 220-pound freshman.

Six Cavaliers homered Wednesday—Anderson, Anthony Stephan, Eric Becker, Harrison Didawick, Aidan Teel (Kyle’s brother) and Bobby Whalen—to raise the team’s season total to 88.

“One through nine, everyone can hit home runs,” said Anderson, who has five homers this season.

Harrison Didawick leads Virginia with 18 home runs this season

Hard as it might be to believe, there was a time in O’Connor’s tenure when the Cavaliers didn’t routinely knock balls out of the park. In 2004, his first season at Virginia, his team homered 32 times in 59 games.

Then known as Davenport Field, UVA’s stadium was a pitcher’s paradise in O’Connor’s first two seasons, measuring 352 feet down each line. After the 2005 season, however, the fences were moved to their current dimensions: 332 feet down each line, 370 feet in the gaps, and 404 feet to center.

Even so, the Hoos didn’t start putting up eye-catching power numbers until recently. In 2015, when they won the College World Series, they hit 35 homers in 68 games. But in 2017, the Cavaliers belted a program-record 71 home runs, and they topped that total in 2022, with 75.

That record didn’t last long, and neither did the mark UVA set in 2023.

“It’s pretty amazing, when you lose O’Donnell, Teel and Gelof out of the middle of your lineup,” O’Connor said.

“It’s sign that the guys from last year got better. They went away in the summer, they worked hard, they got stronger, and they improved their game from last year. And those home runs are coming from everybody in the lineup.”

Eight Cavaliers have hit at least five homers each: Didawick (18), Ford (15), graduate transfer Jacob Ference (13), Casey Saucke (9), Luke Hanson (6), Henry Godbout (5), Anderson (5) and Becker (5).

“Everybody has a chance to hit the ball out the ball park,” O’Connor said. “We’re not trying to do it intentionally. But fortunately, they’re squaring it up enough and getting into some good counts. And they’re physical guys.”

The Hoos are big, strong and athletic, and “college baseball these days is older than it used to be because of the transfer portal and the COVID years, and it’s more physical than it ever has been before,” O’Connor said. “And you add those things up, you’ve got a chance to do something special.”

Gelof’s 23 home runs last season were a single-season record, and after “losing the home run king, you don’t expect to hit as many,” Anderson said. Once fall practice began, however, it became clear that these Cavaliers had multiple sluggers.

“Going into the season, we knew that we had a lot of people that were gonna step up,” Didawick said.

“You had an idea that, hey, this lineup can be as good as it was last year,” O’Connor said. “It’s not about the home runs. It’s great to hit them, but it’s about having a great offense, and home runs are a part of that. And so, yes, in the fall, I had an inkling that we could do some pretty special things offensively.”

Aidan Teel was one of six Cavaliers to homer Wednesday

Didawick, a sophomore, smiled when asked if he’d thought about breaking Gelof’s single-season record.

“No, not at all,” Didawick said. “If I’m paying attention to that, I’m paying attention to the wrong thing.”

Wednesday’s game was the Cavaliers’ first since May 1. Final exams end this week at the University, and that’s been his players’ focus between games, O’Connor said.

“They’re here, first and foremost, to get an unbelievable education,” O’Connor told reporters. “That said, they also love to play baseball, and when they finish their exams, this is their favorite time of the year where they’re just spending all their time together. It’s all baseball, and they can play for as long as they’re successful.”

O’Connor estimated that 85 percent of his players had completed their finals before the GW game. The rest will finish up Thursday and Friday, and “we’ll be ready to play ball Friday night,” he said.

The Hoos are closing in on a program record for single-season attendance at home games, and that’s another mark O’Connor would be happy to see fall.

“It’s within striking distance,” he said, “and I just encourage our community and our fans to come out this weekend and support our guys. Next weekend’s easy, because it’s Virginia Tech, and it’s the last weekend of the season, but this is the weekend that we need everybody’s support to come out and cheer the Wahoos on.”

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