By: Greg Waters
UC Irvine and Virginia will face off in the Charlottesville Super Regional June 11-13 at UVa’s Davenport Field. The teams will play at 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and 1, 4 or 7 p.m. (all times EST) Monday (if necessary). All three games will be televised on the ESPN family of networks. The Saturday and Sunday games will be broadcast on ESPNU, while the Monday contest would air on ESPN2 or ESPNU.
Virginia (52-9) will serve as a super regional host site for the second straight year. After winning the Los Angeles Regional, UC Irvine (42-16) will appear in its first super regional since 2008. The winner will advance to the College World Series. The Anteaters went 3-0 in Los Angeles claiming wins over Fresno State, San Francisco and UCLA.
Best Pitcher: Danny Hultzen (11-3, 1.57 ERA)
Best Hitter: Steven Proscia (.341 BA, 8 HR, 58 RBI)
Strength: The Cavaliers are led by the nation’s best pitching staff (2.27 ERA); a staff that includes the No. 2 overall pick in the MLB draft, south paw Danny Hultzen. Virginia also led the nation in strikeouts per nine innings, was 4th in walks allowed/nine innings and 3rd in hits allowed/nine. UVa’s pitching staff yielded only three runs during the regional, a number that ties the record for second-fewest number of runs allowed in an NCAA regional since the tournament went to a 64-team format in 1999. The Hoos yielded two runs in the 2009 NCAA Irvine Regional – which stands as the fewest number of runs in the current NCAA regional format. Virginia swept Navy, St. John’s and ECU by a combined score of 29-3 to win the Charlottesville Regional. Closer Branden Kline has been selected as one of five finalist for the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year Award.
Weakness: Other than the potential for over-confidence there aren’t any. The Cavaliers led the nation in ERA, are fourth in fielding percentage and enter the weekend 26th in hitting.
Virginia will win if…the Hoos continue to play at the level they have thus far in the post season, they will be almost impossible to beat at Davenport.
Virginia will lose if…they fall back into the hitting slump that cost them their first weekend series loss in over a year at North Carolina at the end of the regular season.
Best Pitcher: Matt Summers (11-2, 1.72 ERA)
Best Hitter: Drew Hillman (.336 BA, 5 HR, 50 RBI)
Strength: Like Virginia, UCI relies on pitching and defense to win. The Anteaters enter the Charlottesville Super Regional withthe 16th lowest ERA in the country (2.92). Irvine is 21st in the land in surrendering the fewest walks and limited its opponents to a .237 batting average this season. The staff allowed four runs per game in the LA Regional but the Anteater relief corps did not allow an earned run in three games in Los Angeles. Jimmy Litchfield and Andy Lines made two appearances apiece, combining for three innings and four strikeouts. Closer Brian Hernandez is 3-2 on the season with a 3.29 ERA and leads the club with 12 saves.
Weakness: The Anteater offense is certainly not weak but it’s not potent. As a unit the team hits .299 and has the fewest home runs among the 16-super regional participants. The lineup 3-6 is pretty solid but there a gap that opponents can exploit lower down the batting order.
UCI will win if…its pitching can shut down a Cavalier offense that has averaged 8.3 runs and 12 hits per game in the post season.
UCI will lose if…it allows the Cavaliers extra outs, commits errors or gives up a lot of base-on-balls or hit batsmen. Virginia scored 25 of its 29 regional runs with two outs so it clearly is club that takes advantage of every out.