UVA pitchers adjust to life without Kuhn

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Pitchers on the Virginia baseball team will start hearing a new voice at practice this week.

Former Illinois pitching coach Drew Dickinson was named to that same position at UVA on Friday afternoon. Dickinson replaces Karl Kuhn, who left last month for the head coaching position at Radford after 16 seasons at Virginia.

Right-handers Chesdin Harrington and Evan Sperling are both going into their fifth seasons on the UVA pitching staff. Both admit that it's been an adjustment without Kuhn -- and his big personality -- around this fall.

"I mean, it's definitely different. It's hard to adjust to," Sperling said. "Just his presence, and his comedic attitude, and how he goes about his day and his work."

"We've definitely adjusted some things, and I miss him," said Harrington. "I mean, that was somebody that was really influential in my baseball career but also my life, too. And I'm certainly going to miss him, and what he's done for this program is unmatched."

Kuhn arrived at UVA with fellow assistant Kevin McMullan and head coach Brian O'Connor prior to the 2004 season, and that trio elevated the Virginia program to one of the elite in the country. The Wahoos reached the College World Series four times under that coaching staff, including 2015's national championship season. UVA also won six NCAA regionals and a pair of ACC tournament titles over the past 16 seasons.

Kuhn's UVA pitching staffs ranked in the top 20 nationally in nine of his 16 seasons as pitching coach. The 2011 team led the country with a 2.24 ERA, while the 2014 team finished with a 2.23 ERA that finished second nationally and was the lowest at the school in 40 years. With Danny Hultzen's promotion by the Cubs last week, six of Kuhn's former UVA pitchers have reached the Majors.

"I'm so excited for him professionally," Harrington said. "He's getting a job that's going to elevate him and his career. I wish the best for him until we play them, and hopefully kick their butt too."

While looking for Kuhn's replacement, O'Connor spent the past few weeks working with UVA pitchers. O'Connor spent nine seasons as pitching coach at Notre Dame before taking the UVA head coaching job, and also spent the summer of 2018 as pitching coach for the US Baseball Collegiate National Team. Sperling says O'Connor brought "a different style of intensity" to the bullpen when working with UVA pitchers.

Dickinson spent eight seasons as pitching coach at Illinois, his alma mater, before making the move to UVA. He's expected to start on the field with his new job this week.

"We're definitely going to miss him, but we're excited to kind of do things a little differently than we did in the past. And I think there's a good vibe around here now," Sperling said. "And yeah, we're surely going to miss Karl."



 
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