Virginia baseball will rebound this year

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Virginia baseball will rebound this year

UVA plays at Davenport field

UVA plays at Davenport field

Owen Stewart

UVA plays at Davenport field

Owen Stewart

Owen Stewart

UVA plays at Davenport field

Owen Stewart, Sports Editor

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Two years ago, the Virginia Cavaliers baseball team went on an unconventional path to a national title, barely sneaking into the 64 team postseason field, but went on an incredible run to defeat Vanderbilt in the College World Series, avenging their loss to the same Commodores a year earlier. In 2016, the ‘Hoos looked primed to make a run for a repeat, but suffered two consecutive losses, to East Carolina and William and Mary, to end their season in the regional tournament.

For 2017, I envision yet another very strong season from UVA, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them make another run deep into the postseason. Virginia returns most of their core, and while they will miss Matt Thaiss (1st round pick by the Angels) and Daniel Pinero (9th round pick by the Tigers), almost all of their other key players return. The team’s three core players- Adam Haseley, Ernie Clement and Pavin Smith (all preseason All-Americans)- are all back and will be the centerpieces of the team. Haseley, the team’s center fielder, leadoff hitter and star left- handed pitcher, won nine games as a sophomore, finishing eighth in the ACC in that category, and also improved as a hitter. Clement batted .351 with 92 hits and 62 runs scored, all in the top 15 in the ACC and can play both outfield and second base. Smith, the team’s best power hitter, finished seventh in the ACC with 57 RBIs and has continued to develop his fielding at first base, as well as his strength, over his two and a half years in the program. UVA also brings back the heart and soul of their team, Robbie Coman, who’s seemingly been around for 15 years. Coman, a catcher and designated hitter, has struggled through injuries, including a back surgery, but brings back leadership, experience, and a little bit of pop in his bat.

If the team does have a weakness, it’s their depth on the mound, but even their pitching could end up being deceptively solid. Behind Haseley, junior Tommy Doyle, senior Alec Bettinger and senior Jack Roberts should help in terms of starting, and the ‘Hoos return senior Tyler Shambora and junior Bennett Sousa out of the bullpen. If Virginia can get production from the supporting cast of their lineup- infielder Justin Novak, utility player Andy Weber and outfielder Charlie Cody, among others, I can see the 2017 ‘Hoos making another postseason run, as long as they are able to fight through a tough schedule that includes North Carolina, Clemson, Duke, Louisville, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Miami, among other conference foes that will pose a challenge. Despite these teams standing in Virginia’s way, I think the strong core surrounded by a solid supporting cast should lead to them hosting a regional, and possibly finding themselves in Omaha during June.

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