CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Griff McGarry has made two starts in a Virginia baseball uniform. His third will come on opening night against the top-ranked team in the country.
With the Wahoos set to leave Thursday morning for Arizona, head coach Brian O'Connor announced his starting pitching rotation for UVA's opening weekend at practice on Wednesday. Sophomore right-hander Griff McGarry will get the ball against No. 1 Vanderbilt on Friday night.
"Griff has been terrific in the fall. I would say he's our most improved pitcher from last year to this year," O'Connor said. "He probably has, right now, the best pure talent on our pitching staff."
McGarry made 11 total appearances as a freshman last season, finishing 0-2 with an 8.15 ERA in 17 2/3 innings, with 22 strikeouts and 16 walks. Those two losses came in his two starts - the Cavaliers' home opener against VMI in February, and their late March visit to VCU.
A 31st round pick by the Texas Rangers coming out of a California High School in 2017, McGarry has drawn steady praise from O'Connor since returning to UVA for his second college season last fall. O'Connor says he's seen the biggest improvement in McGarry's command with his pitches.
"Early on, he was that kid that threw 92, 93 miles an hour, but he'd scatter it at times. But that is a lot less frequent now," O'Connor said. "And that puts him in the mix to be more consistent for us."
"He looks better than ever," said UVA junior right-hander Noah Murdock. "I think this is something that I think Oak expected out of him coming in this year, so having him playing this big a role on this team this year is going to be big for our staff."
On Saturday, first-year righty Mike Vasil will make his UVA debut when he gets the start against No. 19 TCU. Listed at 6-4 and 205 lbs., Vasil was a potential first-round pick in last summer's MLB Draft, but withdrew his name to pitch at UVA.
His potential on the mound has been obvious to the Wahoos since Vasil arrived on Grounds.
"Physically, in his body he looks like Roger Clemens. He's got that big barrel chest to him. He's got a nice arm," O'Connor said. "He's got a lot to learn, and he knows that."
"He's handled himself really well," said Murdock. "I think he's somebody that has matured really quickly, and I think he's got a lot of room to mature. So having a guy like that, that has made that much progress and still has so much progress to go, that's great for our staff."
Murdock will round out UVA's opening weekend rotation when he faces No. 25 Cal State-Fullerton on Sunday. Murdock has made 11 career college starts, including four down the stretch last spring after returning from Tommy John surgery. He's 5-3 with a 3.86 ERA in 51 1/3 innings over 16 total appearances the past two seasons.
"I'm feeling really good. I'm ready to go," Murdock said. "I'm ready to pitch whenever my number's called this weekend."
Senior right-hander Evan Sperling was the fourth candidate for UVA's weekend rotation to start the season. O'Connor said Wednesday that Sperling missed four or five days of practice earlier this preseason while "under the weather," with that setback putting Sperling behind the Cavaliers' other starters to open the season.
"His last two starts I thought were really terrific," O'Connor said of Sperling. "You might see him out of the bullpen, or he could be a potential starter as well."