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Virginia baseball team hosts Miami as frustration grows over struggles

Virginia baseball team hosts Miami as frustration grows over struggles

The Virginia baseball team enters yet another ACC series searching for answers.

On Monday, the Cavaliers (9-11, 3-9 ACC) picked up a win over Pittsburgh, hopeful it was a sign of good things to come. Wednesday, they followed up the victory with a 10-2 blowout loss at Liberty.

The Cavaliers have yet to win three games in a row this spring, and the schedule doesn’t get any easier as they welcome No. 19 Miami (10-7, 5-6 ACC) to town Friday for a three-game series.

“The overall takeaway is we’ve got to keep getting better,” head coach Brian O’Connor said. “I’ve been saying that for a couple weeks.”

O’Connor and his team have discussed their disappointing results at length. The Cavaliers aren’t winning games for a variety of reasons.

Some days, like Wednesday, the pitchers give up a lot of runs.

Starting pitcher Matt Wyatt didn’t even finish the first inning against Liberty, allowing five earned runs in just 2/3 of an inning.

“I thought it set the tone for the rest of the night,” Liberty head coach Scott Jackson said of the Flames’ big first inning.

Liberty led the entire game.

Other times, the offense sputters.

The Cavaliers have scored two or fewer runs in eight of their 20 games, including Wednesday’s effort. UVa’s offense is the most glaring issue this spring. The Cavaliers are the ACC’s worst team in statistical categories such as on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

Occasionally, it’s the defense that makes miscues and puts the Cavaliers in tough positions. Fielding mistakes nearly cost the team in its Monday win over Pitt before the offense caught fire.

Across the board, Virginia needs better production.

There’s no new messaging coming from O’Connor or the coaches. UVa isn’t playing well, and it needs improved execution or it’ll spend another season watching the NCAA Tournament from home.

“There’s nothing you can say to all the sudden not have nine walks in the game,” O’Connor said. “Obviously you’d say, ‘Hey, we need to throw strikes.’ OK, I think any coach at any level would be able to say that. It’s execution. It’s actually going out and performing and doing it.”

The Cavaliers desperately need better play, and they’ll need senior pitcher Griff McGarry to improve this weekend.

McGarry, a right-handed pitcher, typically starts Saturday games. He’ll open the series on the mound Friday to give fellow senior Andrew Abbott an extra day of rest after he tossed over 100 pitches in his start against Pitt. Abbott will start Saturday instead of Friday.

Last season, McGarry dominated opponents. He posted a 1.35 ERA across 20 innings, going 3-0 as the team’s Friday starter during the shortened 2020 season. This spring, his ERA sits at 6.38 across 18 1/3 innings. McGarry has elite pitches, but the results haven’t been there.

“He needs to step up and perform for us,” O’Connor said. “I’m not looking for him to go out there and give us eight innings, he just needs to get us off to a good start and see where we go from there.”

UVa could use a series-opening win, as it’s a woeful 0-8 in the first two games of ACC series. The Cavaliers are 3-1 in ACC series finales.

As the season progresses — the Cavaliers are through 1/3 of their ACC schedule — the sense of urgency increases. The team is disappointed in the results through 20 games and 12 ACC contests, and it knows it needs to win now.

“That frustration is not going to go away until you show continued improvement,” O’Connor said.

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