#7 Virginia Baseball 2017 Preview

Virginia Cavaliers
Overall Rank: #7
Conference Rank: #3 ACC
Virginia battled plenty of adversity all season long in 2016, but they still found a way to get to their 13th consecutive regional and earned the right to host the Charlottesville Regional. The Cavaliers did see their defense of their national championship come to a premature end as the bullpen had issues holding on to leads against East Carolina and William & Mary. As the 2017 season approaches, the level of optimism is still very high in Charlottesville as Virginia should have a deep and talented everyday lineup that can go to toe to toe with anyone. The key is going to be addressing the pitching and getting that back to an elite level.
2016: 38-22, 19-11
2016 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Brian O’Connor
Key Departed Players:
Matt Thaiss, C, .375 BA, 10 HR, 59 RBI
Daniel Pinero. IF, .340 BA, 4 HR, 39 RBI, 5 SB
Connor Jones, P, 103.2 IP, 2.34 ERA, 38 BB, 72 SO
Key Returning Players:
Ernie Clement, IF, .351 BA, 1 HR, 30 RBI, 6 SB
Pavin Smith, IF, .329 BA, 8 HR, 57 RBI
Adam Haseley, OF/P, .304 BA, 6 HR, 37 RBI, 3 SB, 78 IP, 1.73 E.R.A., 21 BB, 48 SO
Justin Novak, IF, .273 BA, 2 HR, 29 RBI
Cameron Simmons, OF, .261 BA, 4 HR, 21 RBI
Jake McCarthy, OF, .368 BA, 0 HR, 2 RBI
Robbie Coman, C, .200 BA, 0 HR, 1 RBI
Nate Eikhoff, DH, .284 BA, 1 HR, 17 RBI
Andy Weber, IF, .296 BA, 0 HR, 11 RBI
Alec Bettinger, P, 61.1 IP, 5.43 ERA, 30 BB, 53 SO
Tommy Doyle, P, 64.0 IP, 5.06 ERA, 19 BB, 51 SO
The pitching staff for the Cavaliers lacked depth after you got past Connor Jones and Adam Haseley in the starting rotation last season. That lack of depth was especially noticeable in the bullpen as Alec Bettinger and Tommy Doyle just could not consistently shut down games late at a level that fans in Charlottesville have grown accustomed to throughout the Brian O’ Connor era. However, looking ahead to 2017 with Haseley back in the weekend rotation and likely becoming the Friday night starter, it should set the tone for an improved rotation. Evan Sperling and Derek Casey should provide some nice depth either as starters or out of the bullpen after missing the 2016 season due to injuries. This, along with the return of a healthy Robbie Coman at catcher, should allow the Cavaliers to improve a great deal as a pitching staff. Offensively, the trifecta of Ernie Clement, Pavin Smith and Haseley are going to be the core of an everyday lineup that should not have any problems scoring runs whatsoever.  Jake McCarthy should be back as well in 2017 after tearing ligaments in his big toe early on in the 2016 season. McCarthy showed signs of being a very productive offensive player, hitting .368, so his return would give this team a nice boost to an already strong lineup. Bottom line, look for the Cavaliers to be a factor in the ACC race and have an opportunity to host for both the regional and Super Regional round of the NCAA Tournament.
Projected Postseason: NCAA Baseball Tournament
Madness 2017 Draft Rankings:
#15 Pavin Smith
#90 Adam Haseley
#94 Ernie Clement