'Hoos again expect to rely on Abbott in key spots

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Andrew Abbott has one goal for his second season in a Virginia baseball uniform.

"Help the team win as many games as possible," the sophomore left-hander said. "If it's closing the game, then I'll do that. If it's long relieving the game, I'll do that. Just trying to get a lot of wins in there, get back to the playoffs, and get some experience for these guys for the next years to come."

In his first college season, Abbott got plenty of experience pitching in key situations for the Cavaliers. He earned Freshman All-American honors after leading UVA with 24 appearances, and tying with senior Bennett Sousa for the team lead with six saves. Abbott finished the season with a 3-4 record and a 3.18 ERA, and he struck out 78 hitters in just 51 innings pitched.

"He was a real force out of our bullpen, and gained some really, really great experience for us and pitched in some big ballgames," said UVA head coach Brian O'Connor. "Andrew Abbott's going to be one of the big key contributors to our pitching staff this year."

Abbott also walked 16 and gave up 42 hits in those 51 innings. He says his goal is to pitch more efficiently this spring. O'Connor said the next step for the lefty is to pitch with more maturity, and continue developing his pitches.

"He's aggressive. He goes after you. He's not afraid to take chances," O'Connor said. "He's a guy that's already made big pitches in his career, and so that lends itself to somebody that can be really, really successful out of the bullpen. And it just comes with getting more time and more experiences in more difficult situations, and learning how to be at his best consistently when he's out there."

O'Connor left open the possibility of moving Abbott to the starting rotation at some point, but said Abbott has been preparing this preseason to again pitch out of the UVA bullpen. That's a role that the sophomore is happy to fill.

"I actually love it. I love having the game end with me on the mound," Abbott said. "It was kind of nervous at first. But then again, the coaches call on you at the toughest times sometimes, and you have to be ready to answer the bell. So it's just working through it, not thinking too much and just pitching. That's what you've got to do."

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