June 5, 2011

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Regional Scores

Proscia Packs Punch for Cavs


Cavaliers Roll to Regional Title

By Sean Ryan

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder


CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – After Virginia concluded its season last year with a Super Regional loss to Oklahoma, coach Brian O’Connor met with reliever Tyler Wilson (right).


Wilson, a junior from Richmond who was taken in the 35th round of the Major League Draft, had won 17 games and appeared in 72 games, all but two in relief. O’Connor asked Wilson what he wanted to do – continue to relieve or be developed as a starter.


“I told him I would give him an opportunity to be a starter,” O’Connor said.


Wilson has rewarded O’Connor and the Cavaliers time and time again this season. Sunday night, the senior improved to 8-0 with 6.1 strong innings as No. 1 Virginia advanced to its third straight Super Regional by eliminating East Carolina 13-1 before another sellout crowd of 5,050 at Davenport Field. The Cavaliers (52-9) will host UC Irvine in their pursuit of Omaha for the second time in three years.


“I can’t tell you that when we made the decision that we thought he’d be 8-0,” said O’Connor, who has guided to the Cavaliers to 152 wins the past three seasons and averaged 46 wins a year in his eight years in Charlottesville.


Wilson has been the perfect complement to ace Danny Hultzen. And he’s been the perfect fit to fill out a rotation that includes Will Roberts and Cody Winiarski. Opponents have hit .197 off him, a year after hitting .198, and he has 111 strikeouts against 21 walks in 88.1 innings.   


“The main difference is you know what day you’re going to get the ball,” Wilson said, adding that in-between game routines also have changed. “When it all boils down to it, it doesn’t matter if you’re a starter or reliever.”


For Virginia’s victims this weekend – Navy, St. John’s and East Carolina – it really didn’t matter. The result was the same. The Cavaliers pitchers dominated the weekend, allowing three runs on .191 hitting with 42 strikeouts and four walks in 27 innings. For his part, Wilson allowed seven hits and one earned run in 6.1 innings, striking out seven and walking one. 


Offensively, Virginia scored 29 runs over the weekend – 25 of them coming when two outs were on the board. Against the Pirates (41-21), leadoff man Chris Taylor (3 for 6, 2 R, 4 RBI) and John Barr (2 for 5, 2 R) each had two-run singles in a five-run second inning. In all, six players had two or more hits, John Hicks and Steven Proscia added two RBI apiece and Keith Werman scored three runs.


If it wasn’t over after the second, it surely was when Hicks hit a two-run double to right center – the Pirates appeared to assume Barr would stop at third and didn’t look for a play at the plate – and Proscia and Hultzen followed with RBI singles in a four-run fourth. Hultzen, who is expected to hear his name called within the first three or four picks tonight in the MLB Draft, went 7 for 11 in the Regional and was named the Most Outstanding Player.


“I can assure you coming into this weekend there was no way I thought or the players thought this was going to be easy,” O’Connor said. “It’s a lot more difficult than maybe what the scoreboard indicated after these three games were over. There’s a lot that goes into this. We earned it this weekend. We played as good of baseball as you can play against three really high-quality opponents.”


East Carolina coach Billy Godwin praised Virginia’s lineup and its pitchers. He said it’s not easy to do what Virginia has done the past few years and remarked how special it is what the Cavaliers have been able to accomplish.


He then suggested the Cavaliers could have beaten the 1927 New York Yankees on Sunday night.


“They’re the real deal,” Godwin said.



·        Reporters asked Danny Hultzen about his faded, beat-up hat and asked him why he wore the same hat since his freshmen year. “I like it,” he said with a smile. A couple of reporters then looked at Tyler Wilson’s faded, beat-up New Era cap, and the senior said he’s been wearing the cap since his freshmen year.

·        Virginia’s Cody Winiarski, the team’s fourth starter, threw the ninth inning and struck out the side, showing a 92-mph fastball.

·        There may not be a more beloved player in college baseball than Keith Werman is at Virginia. The 5-7, 150-pound junior got a huge cheer for getting drilled for the second time in the game. Although he’s hitting about 200 points lower than last year’s .414 campaign, he remains a tough out because of his size and the fact that he stands on top of the plate. He went 1 for 1 with three runs.

·        A name to remember… East Carolina freshman Chase McDonald. McDonald went 2 for 4 and hit the ball hard all weekend. He’s one of three freshmen in the Pirates’ lineup.

·        ECU’s Drew Reynolds, a lefty hitter, sprayed two line drives into the Pirates’ dugout on back-to-back pitches late in the game. ECU players proceeded to hide behind chairs, put on catcher’s masks and about a half dozen huddled toward the entrance to the locker room to avoid being hit by Reynolds. He walked on the next pitch.

·        A big reason for Virginia’s success is that Brian O’Connor has been able to keep his staff intact. Kevin McMullan and pitching coach Karl Kuhn are regarded as two of the top assistants in the country. O’Connor heaped praise on Kuhn: “I happen to believe that we have the best pitching coach in the country. The results speak for themselves.”

·        O’Connor on the Cavaliers’ success with two outs: “I think this time of year, two-out hitting makes a difference if you’re a championship club or not.”

(photo courtesy of Virginia Media Relations Office)