Connelly Early forcing way into UVA pitching plans
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- The Virginia pitching staff was flush with new faces entering the season, but lefty Connelly Early caught the attention of batter in the fall and has only gone on to show his value.
"Day in, day out he gives us a quality start," junior outfielder Ethan O'Donnell said, "I knew he was pretty good once I faced him in inter-squads in the fall. phenomenal kid and gets the job done on the mound."
Early has held down the midweek starter role throughout the year for the Cavaliers compiling a 9-1 record, the loss coming in his lone weekend start against Virginia Tech.
UVA will play their final midweek game of the season against Radford on Wednesday, May 10 with Early starting on the mound, before closing out the season with ACC series against Louisville and at Georgia Tech. Early's success during the midweek and a weekend rotation, which has struggled in recent weeks as Virginia has dropped four of their five series, has given Brian O'Connor a lot to consider with the postseason around the corner.
"He's done a tremendous job for us midweek, it forces me as a coach to look at it and say do we need to look at doing some things on weekends because he's pitching so well and after we get through the Radford game on Wednesday it's all ACC play," O'Connor said, "Potentially whether he pitches out of the bullpen or starts for us, I think it's going to strengthen our pitching staff a little bit."
Currently, the Army transfer ranks second in the ACC with nine wins and eighth in ERA (2.89). Virginia enters the final stretch after having a week off for finals, which O'Connor hoped would allow his pitchers to re-charge before making a final push to host a regional in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016.
Whether Early works his way into a weekend starting role or as a key bullpen piece, he has proven to be a potential X-factor for the Cavaliers pitching staff.
"I like to stick to my routines obviously in the midweek games, but whenever my name is called I'm ready to be there," Early said, "Hopefully I'll get some opportunity out of the pen later, but that should be interesting to see."