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Virginia Baseball 2022 Season in Review

Recapping the 2022 UVA baseball season and taking a look at the roster heading into next season
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This weekend, eight teams will descend upon Omaha, Nebraska for the 2022 College Baseball World Series. While Virginia seemed to be well on the way to taking one of those spots after being one of the top five teams in the country through the first half of the season, the wheels started to come off the bus in April and May. Pitching struggles and inconsistent hitting produced several disappointing losses that drastically lowered the expectations for the Cavaliers entering the NCAA Tournament and losses to East Carolina and Coastal Carolina resulted in UVA's predictable elimination without reaching the regional final. 

With the 2022 Virginia baseball season officially in the books, it's time to give some final thoughts to put this season in perspective and take an initial glance towards next spring as the Hoos enter the offseason. 

While a red-hot start to the season generated a great deal of hype that the Cavaliers could make a return trip to Omaha in 2022, expectations were not nearly that high coming into the season. Virginia lost several key pieces from the team that went to the College World Series in 2021, with those losses concentrated heavily on the pitching staff. UVA lost an estimated 80% of its innings off the mound from the 2021 roster. Andrew Abbott, Griff McGarry, Mike Vasil, and Zach Messinger were all selected in the MLB Draft and Virginia also lost dynamic closer Stephen Schoch. The departures of starting position players Nic Kent, Zack Gelof, and Logan Michaels left major holes to fill in the infield. 

There were still some solid pieces to build around with returning veterans Alex Tappen and Devin Ortiz as well as Jake Gelof and Kyle Tappen, who had spectacular freshman campaigns. But with 18 new players on the roster between incoming freshmen and transfers, the most newcomers on any UVA roster of the Brian O'Conner era, there was a great deal of uncertainty about how the pieces would fit together, especially with regards to the pitching staff. 

The preseason polls reflected how much difficulty college baseball experts and media members had in trying to figure out how to manage expectations for the 2022 Virginia baseball team:

Baseball America: No. 5
Collegiate Baseball: No. 24
D1Baseball: unranked
USA TODAY Coaches poll: No. 21
Perfect Game: unranked

Given the many question marks surrounding the team heading into the season, no one envisioned the Hoos getting out to the best start in the history of the Virginia baseball program. The Cavaliers won 14 games in a row to start the season, started 20-1 for the first time ever, and won 22 of their first 23 games, scoring at least 10 runs in 15 of those games. 

Some other highlights from Virginia's hot start:

February 27th: Jake Gelof becomes first Cavalier since 2001 to hit for the cycle in a 19-1 victory over Cornell, capping a three-game sweep in which Virginia scored a total of 60 runs. 
March 22nd: UVA improves to 20-1 for the first time ever with 15-3 win over Towson. 
March 29th: Virginia beats Richmond 8-2 to set program-record with 19th-consecutive home victory at Disharoon Park 

Through the first 29 games of the season, Virginia was 26-3 with series wins against Cornell, Penn State, Duke, Boston College, Wake Forest, and Georgia Tech. The Cavaliers were ranked in the top 10 nationally in terms of both scoring offense and pitching. 

The only problem was that UVA accomplished all of this against below-average competition. Wake Forest was the only team Virginia faced before the month of April that ended up making the NCAA Tournament. Against mediocre teams, Virginia's weaknesses were not exposed until a trip to Coral Gables to face then-No. 2 ranked Miami. 

The Hurricanes quieted the Cavalier bats, who managed just nine runs in the entire series. Without the typical explosive run support, the Virginia arms were not good enough to keep up as UVA lost the three games by scores of 2-6, 4-5, and 5-15. 

That weekend series started a disturbing trend in which the Hoos failed to return to the dominant form they had displayed in the first half of the season. Virginia won a lot of games where the bullpen had given up 7 or 8 runs, but the Cavaliers could almost always count on the bats to score close to 10 runs, such that those games were still winnable. Against better competition, that was no longer the case. 

After getting swept at Miami, UVA followed that up with perhaps an even worse performance the next weekend at Pittsburgh, where the team's inconsistencies at the plate began to show. Virginia lost the first game 9-4, then won game two 18-0, and then lost the rubber match 4-1. UVA outscored Pitt 23-13 over the course of the three games, but lost the series. 

In the final month of the regular season, Virginia managed to pick up a major resume-boosting series sweep against North Carolina, including some-late game heroics in a wild game 2 on April 23rd as Virginia scored seven runs in the bottom of the tenth to erase a three-run deficit, capped off by a walk-off grand slam by Devin Ortiz. The Cavaliers also took two out of three games against Clemson, but lost series against Virginia Tech and Louisville, so Virginia lost four out of its last six ACC series to end the regular season. 

UVA then turned in a disappointing 0-2 showing at the ACC Baseball Championship in Charlotte, sealing the deal that the Cavaliers would not host an NCAA Tournament regional in Charlottesville. 

By that point, hype for the Hoos making a return trip to Omaha had been significantly watered down and expectations were similar to where they were before the start of the season. Virginia's pitching issues were clear and the bats were still good and capable of the occasional big game, but perhaps a little too reliant on the long ball instead of displaying a willingness to get hits and move around the bases to score runs. 

The Cavaliers delivered a solid outing against Coastal Carolina in their opening game of the Greenville Regional, winning 7-2 behind a solid pitching performance, great defense, and timely hitting, giving some hope that the Hoos could rediscover the magic that made them so good back in February and March. UVA lost a close game against a great East Carolina team in a loud, hostile environment that made it clear the impact that home field advantage can have on a game. In the rematch against Coastal in an elimination game, Jake Gelof tried to take over. He broke Pavin Smith's single-season RBI record and hit two home runs to put the Cavaliers in front 6-0. But, UVA's pitching staff blew the 6-0 lead and Coastal walked it off in the bottom of the ninth to end Virginia's season. 

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From a big picture standpoint, it is unlikely that this year's roster was built for a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, not without strong pitching. After all, 64 teams enter the tournament, but only one can be crowned the national champion. The end of any team's season will almost always be disappointing, especially for a team that at one point could make a strong case as a top three team in the country, but a sad end to this UVA baseball season was not an if, but a when

Now that UVA's 2022 campaign is officially over, we can begin to look to next spring and what should be another exciting season for Virginia baseball. Brian O'Connor will likely look to the transfer portal to bring in some more arms and Drew Dickinson will try his best to work some magic to develop the existing pitchers on the roster for next year. The pitching will improve - the only question is by how much. 

The losses of fifth-year seniors Devin Ortiz and Alex Tappen, who had a breakout year in his final season in Charlottesville, are significant, particularly from a leadership standpoint. However, UVA fans have much to look forward to with the players who will be returning, especially considering the massive contributions the Cavaliers got from a spectacular class of first years this season. 

Virginia is expected to return the following position players next season: 

  • sophomore Jake Gelof: .377, 65 R, 80 H, 21 HR, 81 RBI
  • freshman Casey Saucke: .360, 44 R, 67 H, 7 HR, 46 RBI
  • freshman Griff O'Ferrall: .308, 56 R, 70 H, 2 HR, 39 RBI
  • freshman Ethan Anderson: .302, 35 R, 48 H, 5 HR, 39 RBI
  • sophomore Kyle Teel: .276, 62 R, 61 H, 6 HR, 45 RBI
  • junior Chris Newell: .258, 51 R, 49 H, 12 HR, 32 RBI
  • freshman Justin Rubin: .333, 19 R, 29 H, 1 HR, 13 RBI
  • freshman Colin Tuft: .292, 30 R, 28 H, 1 HR, 15 RBI
  • junior Max Cotier: .257, 24 R, 35 H, 23 RBI

Much will be expected from the rising sophomore class that vastly exceeded expectations in their first season in Charlottesville. Even more will be demanded of rising third years Jake Gelof and Kyle Teel, who will be participating in the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team training camp later this month.

Virginia is also set to add catcher Travis Reifsnider, a transfer from JMU who batted .303, hit 13 home runs, and drove in 37 RBI last season and earned First-Team All-CAA honors in the process. 

From a pitching standpoint, Jay Woolfolk (freshman), Matt Wyatt (junior), Nate Savino (junior), Brandon Neeck (senior), Jake Berry (sophomore), Jacob Hodorovich (junior), Alex Greene (sophomore), and Matthew Buchanan (freshman) all have eligibility remaining. Transfers Will Geerdes, Dylan Bowers, and Paul Kosanovich could potentially return as well. Second-Team All-ACC pitcher Brian Gursky has played his five seasons of college baseball, including four at Southern California. Of course, some of the roster could be shaken up by departures for the MLB Draft or the transfer portal. 

There will be plenty of time to revisit the roster in a few months when Virginia begins fall practices, but there ought to be plenty of talent and experience on the team when the Cavaliers take the field at Disharoon Park once again in 2023. 

See more Virginia baseball news and content: Virginia Baseball on Sports Illustrated

See more Virginia sports news and content: Virginia Cavaliers on Sports Illustrated

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