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