Morris thinking big heading into second UVA season

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Tanner Morris has a different look heading into his second season with the Virginia baseball season -- and it goes beyond the fresh haircut Morris showed up with for the Cavaliers' final preseason practice on Wednesday.

Morris says he's added about 30 pounds -- of what he jokingly called "mostly good weight" -- since his freshman season at UVA ended last summer. The Miller School product said he worked out five days a week to better prepare him for his second college season.

"I think through the long season, I'm going to be able to maintain my weight and energy level. So I'm not going to get weaker as the year progresses," Morris explained. "And just power at the plate. I think I can put the ball out opposite-field and pull-side. I'm just hoping to add a little more power this year, and hit some doubles and some home runs."

Morris hit .298 with two home runs and nine doubles in 50 games for the Cavaliers last season. He spent the year as UVA's leadoff hitter and everyday shortstop, and finished the season second on the team in batting average, runs scored (38) and multi-hit games (15). After the season, Morris was an ACC All-Freshman Team selection.

Morris followed that freshman season by earning all-star and team MVP honors with the Harwich Mariners of the Cape Cod League last summer. Morris's .331 batting average was fifth on the Cape for the summer. He also led the Mariners with five stolen bases and 24 runs scored, while his 45 hits and eight doubles ranked second on the team.

"I always thought when we recruited Tanner out of high school, Tanner could always hit. So I knew right away when Tanner came here that he was going to, in some way, impact our lineup," UVA head coach Brian O'Connor said Wednesday. "You just didn't know if somebody was going to be able to start as a true freshman at shortstop."

"Certainly we're excited about him being back, and being a second-year and the experience that he's had," O'Connor added. "The guy can flat-out hit."

Between his freshman season at UVA and then his summer on the Cape, Morris played in 86 baseball games last season. He racked up 334 at-bats. Morris believes that experience has prepared him to play an even bigger role for the Wahoos this season, which begins against No. 1 Vanderbilt in Arizona on Friday night.

"You get a lot of at-bats under you. You field a lot more ground balls. Through the at-bats, you start to figure out what pitchers are doing to you. Your rhythm and timing gets more in-sync," Morris said. "Through the experience I think I've become a better baseball player."