First, they fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War. Then, 50 or so years later (Caution: California public school graduate) they stole Cal Women's Basketball Coach, Joanne Boyle. Well, now it's time for revenge!
Yes, Cal baseball takes on Virginia this Sunday at 2 PM and it promises to be a real doozy. Virginia is one of the top teams in the nation, sporting the #2 overall pick in the 2011 MLB draft, Danny Hultzen. Cal is red hot, sweeping Dallas Baptist in the Super Regional. Can they continue that momentum in the key first World Series game?
To find out, we talked with our blogger brethren over at SBNation's Virginia site, Streaking The Lawn. They have their ears to the ground on all things Cavalier. They can help us better understand what Cal faces. After the jump, we have their answers to our hard hitting questions. These questions hit as hard as Chadd Krist! Let's do this thing! GO BEARS!1. We're going to assume that Danny Hultzen will take the mound on Sunday. Talk about what kind of stuff he brings to the mound, and what made him the #2 pick in the MLB draft.
Danny is a hell of a talent. He's a hard throwing(92-95 mph) lefty with an exceptional changeup and great control. UVa's pitching staff trusts in its defense so they pitch to contact. Hultzen will do the same but has impressive strike out stats as well. As for the reason why he was the #2 overall pick; he has great stats and great "stuff." Many think he could go straight to AA and be in Seattle some time next year.
2. Looking at the stats (fielding percentage, double plays turned, caught stealing percentages) I get the sense that Virginia's defense is excellent. Is that an accurate assessment, and are there any weak spots on the diamond to look out for?
When Coach O'Connor took over 8 years ago he made a commitment to defense. O'Connor and Coach Mac(3rd base coach and position player coach) stress defense and don't accept errors. I wouldn't say there are many weak spots. Perhaps the least strong would be the arms in LF and RF. Both David Coleman and John Barr and quick and can get to the ball but aren't really known for their arm strength.
3. How did you guys get to Omaha? Was this expected, or did you guys play over expectations this year?
UVa has been ranked in the top 5 most of the year. Coming into the tournament most fans expected to get a top 3 national seed and were very pleased to get the #1 overall seed. I can't say that it is ever expected to make it to Omaha just because it is so difficult to get there but I will say had they lost to UC-Irvine yesterday it would have been a disappointment. In the regional, they rolled over ECU, Navy and St. Johns without much of a problem. Against UC-Irvine this past weekend they ran into some trouble and I put a lot of that on the weather. There were rain delays of over an hour in the first two games that didn't allow the 'Hoos to maintain the momentum they seemed to have going into the delay.
4. What is the character of your team? Big hitters, power pitching or scrappy, run manufacturing through aggressive base running and getting on base?
UVa plays in a cavern. Peter Gammons said the other day that "Davenport field is the PetCo Park of college baseball" and that is very true. Its a big field and the ball doesn't exactly fly out of it. Knowing that, O'Connor and Co. rely on strong pitching and exceptional defense. On the offensive side, there are a few that could hit it out but most will rely on hitting the gaps, moving the runners over, and being aggressive on the basepaths.
5. Who are the hitters Cal pitchers should be worried about? And who will we see on the mound (beyond Hultzen)?
If I was going to focus on three Virginia hitters I would say those would be Steven Proscia, John Hicks, and Chris Taylor. Proscia and Hicks are the 3 and 4 hitters in the lineup and have been the big run producers most of the year. Chris Taylor has been the star of the ACC and NCAA tournament. He's been smoking hot at the plate and was the hero of the deciding game against UC-Irvine.
For pitchers, Will Roberts and Tyler Wilson are the names to know other than Hultzen. They are the two other starters UVa will have on the mound and they have been superb all year. Wilson moved from the pen to the starting role for his 4th year and has flourished. He's got a great record and impressive ERA. He will attack with a low-90s fastball and get hitters out with his slider. He's a bit emotional on the mound and many people can't stand him for it. UVa fans love him. Will Roberts was a surprise to most fans this year. He started the year as a midweek starter but moved to the #3 position after impressing during the week. His claim to fame is throwing a perfect game back in March against George Washington University. He's also been great on the mound since moving to the weekend and most were upset when he was not tabbed to be on any All-ACC teams.
6. What does Virginia need to do to win All The Tostitos?
Play their game. They have the talent and the fundamentals to win it all and I think they have a very good shot at doing that. As long as someone doesn't throw a lefty chucking it in the low 80s the hitting should take care of itself and if the pitching has command they've had all year they'll be competitive on the mound as well.