June 6, 2010


Little Guys, Big Impact

Brian Harris of Vanderbilt

Rico Noel of Coastal Carolina

Nathan Kilcrease of Alabama


Cavaliers Get More Than a Little from Werman

By Sean Ryan

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder


CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Pitch after pitch in the fourth inning Saturday night, the partisan crowd at Virginia’s sold-out Davenport Field got louder and louder. Foul ball after fall ball, fan-favorite Keith Werman (left) was firing up the crowd while at the same time agonizing Ole Miss starter Aaron Barrett.


After 12 pitches in his at-bat – including about 10 foul balls – the Cavaliers’ mighty mite laced a sharp single to right for a leadoff hit. Cavaliers fans responded with a standing ovation.


“That was a really fun at-bat, I’m always going to remember that,” said Werman, who then scored on Steven Proscia double to kickstart a four-run inning that helped put Ole Miss away in a 13-7 Virginia win.


“I appreciate the fans for supporting it. They were having a great time with it too. It was cool to see.”


The fans likely would have backed any of the Cavaliers, but it’s a little easier to cheer for Werman, a sophomore second baseman.


After all, Werman, the No. 2 batter on the No. 1 team in the country is one of the smallest guys in college baseball. The Virginia roster lists him at 5-7, 150 pounds.


“I’m right around, I’m 140,” Werman said smiling. And the height? “I’m just under 5-7, I’m 5-7.”


And he’s a pitcher’s worst nightmare – a guy with a small zone who might bunt or split the gap. A guy who battles every pitch and doesn’t strike out – nine times in 180 total plate appearances, including walks, hit by pitches and sacrifices.


Werman entered the NCAA Regionals with a .444 average that ranked fifth in the nation and is the Cavaliers’ leader in on-base percentage at .500. He’s “cooled” to .430, but contributed two hits and two runs Monday in Virginia’s do-or-die, 5-3 win over St. John’s.


“It tells you how smart I am,” Virginia coach Brian O’Connor said. “I had him in the lineup three times last year until about the 85-90 percent mark of the season. I decided late last year that we just needed to change something and plugged him into the lineup every day. Our team just took off.”


The Cavaliers rolled to a 49-win season and reached the College World Series for the first time in school history. And in Omaha, it didn’t take look for the first fans of college baseball to fall in love as Werman hit .442 in his final 16 games and played spectacular defense.


“He’s amazing, he really is,” O’Connor said. “The kid is maybe 140 pounds soaking wet. He’s just a really great college baseball player. He knows the game better than anybody. He’s got a short, compact swing, and he understands what pitchers are trying to do to him. He doesn’t try to do too much. The guy, he wins you over.”


O’Connor had an inkling to what Werman may be like after inheriting big brother Kyle Werman when he took the reins of the Cavaliers in 2004.


Yet, being the smallest guy on the field often doesn’t sit well with many college coaches and recruiters.


“Like you said, some guys, you talk to the coaches, and they want second baseman to hit homeruns,” Werman said. “Alright, thanks coach, that’s not me.”


Werman said there were a “few” schools interested in him, but he mainly picked the schools he was interested in and got interest in return from attending showcase camps at those schools.


“Seeing my brother play through here and getting the opportunity to play second base and playing under the coaching staff, that gave me a lot of confidence in myself being the same kind of player as my brother,” Werman said. “It’s just a matter of finding the right program.


“Fortunately enough, this is where I always wanted to come. Great academics, great team, great program, and getting the opportunity to play here, there’s no question.”


And there’s little question Werman can compete at the highest level of college baseball.


Defensively, he’s made two errors in 48 games (36 starts) and is fielding .988. He was in the middle of two double plays Friday that prompted VCU coach Paul Keyes to say, “I don’t think anyone in the county turns those two double plays as quick as he does.”


The Cavaliers have won 21 of 24 and have their minds set on a second straight trip to Omaha. In a potent lineup that hits .336, Werman often is in the middle of things, scrapping and doing the little things a little guy has to do.


“I’m just really trying to enjoy every experience,” Werman said. “It’s been a blast.”


(photos courtesy of UVa Media Relations Office)