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Virginia baseball team stays positive after dropping first two ACC series

Virginia baseball team stays positive after dropping first two ACC series

When the Virginia baseball team dropped a weekend series to North Carolina, head coach Brian O’Connor was OK with the result. After the second consecutive ACC weekend series loss, O’Connor wants to see more from his group.

“In order to be successful in league play, you’ve got to win two of out of three, and in order to win at the end of the year you’ve got to win a series,” O’Connor said. “To go to Omaha, it comes down to winning two out of three. To win the national championship at the end of the year, it’s not one game, it’s winning two out of three.”

UVa (6-5, 2-4 ACC) dropped two of three games to Florida State over the weekend. The Cavaliers were once again close to taking a series from an ACC foe, but came up short. They host Richmond (5-2) Tuesday before hosting ACC opponent Notre Dame (4-2, 4-2 ACC) over the weekend.

As ACC play marches on, the Cavaliers want to start turning close losses into wins. In both the UNC and FSU series, the Cavaliers lost the first game by two runs or fewer and then picked up a win on Sunday. They’re not far away, but they know they need to find ways to end weekends with two or three wins rather than one.

“It’s definitely a bright sign when you aren’t getting blown out in games and you’re showing that you can fight,” sixth-year senior pitcher Stephen Schoch said. “I know in the dugout there’s a lot of belief in our pitching staff and there’s a lot of belief in our hitters as well. We might be off to a slower start but we know the talent we have and once we start playing with the confidence and the talent we have and our skills, I think we’re gonna be something really special.”

Virginia believes it’s a national title-caliber team this season. The goal moving forward is to stack wins together rather than escaping a series with one win.

That starts in the batter’s box, at least for this Virginia team. The Cavaliers have allowed an average of just 3.2 runs per game in ACC play, yet they’re 2-4 in league games.

The team’s pitching, for the most part, has been productive. The bats, however, have been quiet. Virginia has scored a combined seven runs over its four ACC losses. In the two wins, the Cavaliers have only scored five runs. Even when they win, the Cavaliers aren’t finding tons of success at the plate.

“We’ve just got to keep working,” O’Connor said. “There’s not a magic pill for it. Hitting a baseball is the most difficult thing in sports to do, hands down. You’re trying to hit a round ball moving at 98 mph with a round bat.”

Despite a slow start hitting, O’Connor feels confident his team will figure it out. Sophomore Chris Newell hit .407 in 2020, his freshman season. The outfielder is hitting just .161 to start this season. While reaching .407 again is a lofty standard, there’s significant room for Newell to improve.

Few UVa players are hitting at or above their previous batting average, giving O’Connor hope for improvement.

Senior infielder Devin Ortiz is a player O’Connor frequently mentions as someone close to turning the corner. Virginia’s head coach says Ortiz has hit about 10 balls this season right at fielders. A few feet to the left or right, and the hard hit balls will drop for base hits.

Those close calls often define the team’s losses in ACC play.

“That’s the game,” O’Connor said. “That’s why you can’t panic, and you just got to work and stay with it and trust and believe and the game comes around.”

UVa has found significant success in midweek games, beating VMI and George Washington by a combined score of 25-6. The Cavaliers hope for a similar outcome Tuesday against the Spiders, who allowed 10 runs in a loss to Central Michigan on Monday. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m.

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