NCAA baseball preview: Virginia Cavaliers hold title hopes

NCAA baseball preview: Virginia Cavaliers hold title hopes
February 13, 2014, 1:30 pm
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VIRGINIA CAVALIERS

2013 record: 50-12 (22-8)
2013 finish: Lost in NCAA Super Regional
Head coach: Brian O’Connor (10th season)
Key additions: RHP Connor Jones, IF Daniel Pinero, C Matt Thaiss
Key losses: IF/OF Reed Gragnani, INF Jared King, LHP Scott Silverstein, LHP Kyle Crockett

Expectations are high as usual for the Virginia Cavaliers who open the season as the No. 1 ranked team in the country. They boast five Perfect Game preseason All-Americans including Branden Cogswell, Brandon Downes, Derek Fisher, Nick Howard and Mike Papi. Papi, Cogswell, Howard and Downes made up four of the Cavs five best hitters in 2013 and all five are only juniors. All five are also rated highly as prospects for the 2014 MLB Draft.

Sophomore Brandon Waddell will be Virginia’s Opening Day starter for the second straight season, pacing a staff that also includes sophomore standout Josh Sborz. Waddell went 6-3 with a 3.96 ERA in 2013 and Sborz held a 1.98 mark with a 3-0 record.

First game: vs. Kentucky 2/14 at 12:00 p.m. (in Wilmington, NC)

Full schedule

VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES

2013 record: 40-22 (15-14)
2013 finish: Lost in NCAA Regional
Head coach: Patrick Mason (1st season)
Key additions: RHP Brad Markey, IF Mac Caples, RHP Andrew McDonald, IF Miguel Ceballos
Key losses: IF Chad Pinder, OF Tyler Horan, OF Andrew Rash, LHP Joe Mantiply, RHP Clark Labitan, RHP Devin Burke, RHP Jake Joyce

Despite hosting a NCAA Regional for the first time in school history last season, the Hokies lost a lot over the course of a few months. Not only did they get bounced from the tournament by Oklahoma, their breakout star head coach Pete Hughes then left to join the Sooners. And, as you see above, they lost a great deal of talent to the MLB draft and to graduation.

Now Patrick Mason takes over for Hughes after serving on the Tech staff for three years as an assistant. He’ll look to lead the Hokies back to the tournament with junior Mark Zagunis leading the way. Zagunis, considered an early round prospect for the 2014 draft, returns after hitting .341 in 62 games last season. He led the Hokies with 62 runs scored and slugged .543 in 223 total at-bats.

First game: vs. Youngstown State 2/14 at 12:00 p.m. (in Charlotte, NC)

Full schedule

MARYLAND TERRAPINS

2013 record: 30-25 (11-19)
2013 finish: Missed NCAA Tournament
Head coach: John Szefc (2nd season)
Key additions: IF Brandon Lowe, IF Nick Cieri, LHP Zach Morris, RHP Mike Shawaryn
Key losses: C Jack Cleary, RF Jordan Hagel, IF K.J. Hockaday, LHP Jimmy Reed

John Szefc enters his second season as head coach of the Terps looking to build off the 30-25 record they put up in 2013. Maryland will continue its quest to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1971 with a young roster. In come 14 freshman on a team that returns five starters to their lineup and three to their rotation.

Senior infielder Kyle Convissar is back after hitting .325 in 43 games for the Terps in 2013. He’ll help pace Maryland’s offense alongside junior outfielder Charlie White who hit .350 in 55 games with a .984 OPS. Freshmen Brandon Lowe and Nick Cieri are expected to make an impact right from the start as they begin their careers in College Park. Zach Morris, a transfer from Cincinnati, also figures to be a nice addition. The Dematha graduate was a finalist to the NCBWA Freshman All-America Team in 2012 as a freshman.

First game: at No. 21 Florida 2/14 at 7:00 p.m.

Full schedule