High-octane Cavaliers prepare to open season
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Few teams in college baseball could match the start Virginia got out to last season and the Cavaliers are ready jump out of the gates again in 2023.
"Our guys are ready to go, they're eager," UVA head coach Brian O'Connor said, "They're excited and we just need to start playing somebody else in a different color of uniform."
The opportunity comes Friday against Navy at Disharoon Park, a surprise home opener due to weather in Wilmington to start the weekend. After the 22-1 start to last year, the Cavaliers hit their fair share of bumps along the way highlighting the importance of endurance throughout the rest of the season into June.
"I just want to see us go out and play some hard nose baseball and play with a lot of fun," junior third baseman Jake Gelof said, "I'm super excited, I get goosebumps talking about it right now to open our season up."
While much of the focus has been on a revamped pitching staff, which will feature three new pitchers on opening weekend in Brian Edgington, Nick Parker and Jack O'Connor, there are plenty of familiar faces back in a record-setting UVA lineup.
Virginia's high-octane offense ranked No. 13 in the country in runs scored per game (8.60), second in program history behind only the 1985 team at 8.65. UVA also broke the school-record with 75 home runs in a season and rank in the top-ten in seven other offensive categories with the majority of that record-breaking lineup back.
"We got some dogs in our team, so just come out firing," Gelof said.
Preseason All-Americans Gelof and catcher Kyle Teel lead a lineup filled with returners, the only two everyday starters missing being super seniors Alex Tappen and Devin Ortiz. Sophomores shortstop Griff O'Ferrall, outfielders Casey Saucke and Colin Tuft, first baseman Ethan Anderson and second baseman Justin Rubin all return after making big leaps in their games according to O'Connor.
The rich get richer with additions of All-Big Ten Northwestern outfielder Ethan O'Donnell, All-CAA JMU utility man Travis Reifsnider and former Penn outfielder Tommy Courtney joining the team.
"From a position player standpoint I think our depth candidly is one of the better that we've had here in my tenure," O'Connor said, "We're going to put nine guys in the starting lineup, but there's going to be a number of players listed under there that could also have been in that lineup."
The 2022 Cavaliers brought fans to their feet with a record number of home runs, this year's edition will not outright call themselves a power or small ball team. This UVA team is just one with a chip on their shoulder to carry over last season's fireworks to help Virginia go deep into June.
"Hopefully we just score more runs than the other team," Gelof said, "At the end of the day that's our job as a team."