Promising future ahead for Cavaliers with strong core returning
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Virginia baseball started the season with expectations of being the last team standing in Omaha, so Brian O'Connor was not turning the page quickly to next season after their season ended in regionals.
"I'm not really ready to turn to next year yet," O'Connor said after being eliminated by Coastal Carolina in Greenville, "But I understand and I can see the big picture and understand what we have coming back and things like that."
The big picture certainly looks rosy for the Cavaliers with five of their top-seven hitters returning in 2023, including All-American Jake Gelof and everyday catcher Kyle Teel. O'Connor also returns eight players with at least 20 starts thanks to a productive freshman class with starters like Griff O'Ferrall, Casey Saucke, Ethan Anderson along with rotation players in Colin Tuft and Justin Rubin.
"Really proud of them, Griff O'Ferrall at shortstop every day, Ethan Anderson, Casey Saucke is going to be an incredible player, he is right now and other guys as well," O'Connor said.
There are still plenty of questions surrounding next year's squad starting with the MLB Draft. Draft-eligible juniors Nate Savino and Chris Newell are both top-200 prospects, according to MLB.com, while Newell and pitcher Matt Wyatt were both invited to the MLB Draft Combine starting June 15 in San Diego.
While Virginia returns the majority of their starting position players and add a few grad transfers in outfielders Tommy Courtney from Penn and Travis Reifsnider from JMU, the pitching staff will be one of the main questions O'Connor looks to answer this offseason. Weekend starter Jake Berry will return along with key freshmen arms Jay Woolfolk and Matthew Buchanan. UVA added another arm through the transfer portal in former Elon righty Brian Edgington, but the main source of help comes in a pitching heavy 2022 recruiting class.
Nine of the Cavaliers 13 incoming recruits are pitchers, including top talents like lefty Bradley Hodges and 6'5" righty Jack O'Connor, who is ranked No. 124 on MLB.com's draft prospects.
"We have a phenomenal pitching class coming in, really, really talented," O'Connor said, "They're going to need to contribute a lot right away, but certainly have a great core of position players back."
O'Connor eventually did turn the page last week, spending three days meeting with individual players to talk about the future and their summer plans. In those meetings O'Connor said they talked about the expectations for each player in order to put the team in the "best possible position" for next season, a starting point on the road back to the College World Series.
"Being the coach here 19 years, next year will be my 20th year, I am really, really proud of this," O'Connor said lifting up the "Virginia" on his chest, "Incredibly proud of this program and what it stands for."