The Good Ol' Blog Archive for April, 2010
Wednesday, April 28th, 2010
Virginia freshman pitcher Melanie Mitchell was an absolute knockout softball pitching recruit in high school; her accolades will knock you out of your chair. In her senior season at McDonough High School, Mitchell threw 133 innings, did not allow an earned run, allowed just 22 hits, walked only four batters, finished with a 19-0 record, and – here’s the nuttiest statistic of all – struck out 315 batters. For those of you who aren’t quick on math, 133 innings equals 399 recorded outs. Add in the 22 hits and four walks, and conservatively add another 25 at-bats that resulted in other outcomes (sac-bunt, fielder’s choice, reaching on an error, hit batsman, etc.), and Mitchell fanned 70 percent of the batters she faced. She led McDonough to the state title in Maryland, and was named the All-Met Player of the Year by The Washington Post.
So, why in the heck did she come to Virginia, a team that scarcely been competitive in the ACC in prior seasons?
“The potential of the program was there,” Mitchell said. “Under [Virginia] coach [Eileen] Schmidt, she was bringing in just the right mix of players that meshed with the third and fourth years we have now, and the younger girls that she brought in during her first two years.”
Mitchell had obviously been courted by just about everyone, and narrowed her choices to LSU, Northwestern, and Virginia. One thing that influenced her choice for the Cavaliers, she said, was the story of Monica Abbott, a highly touted pitcher who also could have landed at any powerhouse softball school, but instead went to Tennessee, a mediocre softball program before her arrival. Abbott, though, helped turn the program around, and Tennessee has remained a national power since Abbott graduated in 2008.
“I saw [Abbott’s] story, and I’m like, ‘I want to be a part of something other than just, ‘Oh, we’re in the World Series,’” Mitchell said with a sarcastic ring to her voice. “I wanted to go somewhere and engage with people and just do something great.”
Mitchell also said she was drawn to the school by its academics, and particularly its systems and information engineering program, which is her intended major.
As is clear from an EDGE article on the softball team, Mitchell’s work in the circle has indeed been the biggest reason for some great accomplishments for the Virginia program this season. The Cavaliers went from 2-15 in the ACC last year to a school-record 12-5 this year, with a home series against Florida State and the ACC Tournament still to play. While Virginia’s offense is, if anything, less effective than it was in 2009, the team is allowing close to a run less per game largely thanks to Mitchell, who has picked up 25 of the team’s 32 wins and thrown 242.1 of the team’s 330.1 innings.
Wednesday, April 28th, 2010
As many fans already know, the Virginia football team released a post-spring depth chart Monday afternoon (click here for the PDF link). I put together this EDGE article on the offense and I’ll have something on the defense soon as well. But I thought I’d share some special teams thoughts on the blog. As in, the Hoos didn’t release a post-spring depth chart for special teams!
I don’t think it was necessary to post the pecking order for all of the specialists (Jimmy Howell at punter and Danny Aiken at long snapper – yep, those seem fairly obvious), but the absence of a two-deep at kicker is troublesome simply because we all know just how shaky the kicking situation may be again this season if things don’t improve. After all, the kickers combined to go 2 of 6 in the Spring Game on field goals. That’s from three guys who have all kicked in real games before – unfortunately! Coach Mike London joked this spring that UVa might be the only team in NCAA history to have three different kickers returning that handled the three different duties (field goals, kickoffs, extra points). While that strategic blunder from the previous regime is a problem in and of itself, the bigger issue may be that no one in that trio (Robert Randolph, Chris Hinkebein, Drew Jarrett) has separated himself yet. Someone needs to win the field goals/extra points job and take almost all of the reps this fall so that the Cavaliers hopefully can develop some consistency there.
If not, that’s one more piece of the puzzle to file under ‘concerning’ this fall. That and the ‘if Aiken gets injured’ card … but let’s not go there right now.
Monday, April 26th, 2010
Monday’s SabreMail leads off with the numerous accomplishments by Virginia athletes this past weekend. Among the Hoos making headlines were member of the track and field team. The 4×800-meter relay team won its event at the 116th Penn Relays. Robby Andrews, Alex Bowman, Lance Roller and Steve Finley ran to Virginia’s first relay title since the Cavaliers won the 4×120 yard shuttle hurdle relay in 1943.
“To say I’m proud is an understatement,” coach Jason Vigilante said. “The amount of commitment and patience these guys put into this race is just phenomenal and I know this is a moment that each of them will remember for the rest of their lives. To me, there is no more special track and field meet than the Penn Relays. I’m grateful to be here with such an outstanding bunch of young men.”
Well, thanks to the folks over at Flotrack, you can watch the Cavaliers’ winning run! Check it out …
Track and Field Videos on Flotrack
Friday, April 23rd, 2010
Go home, Duke.
Congrats to Adam Ghitelman on an awesome goal.
Tuesday, April 20th, 2010
After the Duke and Virginia swapped unanswered scoring runs throughout the first half Saturday night, the dust settled with UVa leading 6-5 at intermission. Shamel Bratton led the first-half scoring with 2 goals. For Bratton, finding the cage twice in the first half helped snap a low-scoring stretch in ACC play. He had just one goal against Maryland and did not score against UNC (1 assist). It didn’t take long at all to find the netting against the Blue Devils; Bratton scored at 13:57 in the first quarter on the first shot of the game.
“Coming off a game like that where I felt like it wasn’t my best to say the least, just getting out here and getting my confidence early, that kind of played into the rest of the game,” Bratton said. “I don’t think I shot the ball as much as I could’ve, but usually you watch the film and see where you can get some back.”
Indeed, Bratton took just 3 total shots in the game and he scored on both of the ones that were on-goal. Of course, it’s hard to take shots if the offense doesn’t have the ball. The Blue Devils dominated the face-offs and groundballs in the second half, leaving Virginia scrambling on defense and in hurry-up mode on offense. UVa took just 11 shots after intermission, less than half the 23 attempts it created before halftime. The result, as anyone that follows the Hoos knows was another loss to Duke, this time by a 13-9 score.
“It’s really difficult when they’re winning groundballs and keeping such long possessions,” Bratton said. “Especially as an offensive player, you want to get out there and you’re down and you want to get back in it. But at the same time, you have to get a possession where you can give your defense a little rest. They did a good job possessing the ball and getting long possession and capitalizing – that was the biggest thing, they were getting long possessions and scoring goals at the end of them.”
Tuesday, April 20th, 2010
It’s easy to forget about the Virginia softball team thanks to the success of so many of UVa’s spring-time programs. After all, men’s lacrosse, men’s tennis, baseball, and women’s rowing have all held the No. 1 ranking in their respective sport at some time this season. But the Cavalier softball team is quietly putting together a great season at 27-18 overall and 9-5 in the ACC … so great in fact that the Hoos are in contention for an NCAA Tournament bid. Here’s an excerpt about UVa’s NCAA hopes from an ESPN blog (check out the full post here to read about freshman pitcher Melanie Mitchell):
If the Cavaliers can avoid a disaster at Boston College on Saturday and Sunday, they should be in the NCAA Tournament; they already have wins against Michigan, Arizona and Louisiana-Lafayette, plus a top-30 RPI.
The Cavalier Daily also has a report up on the Hoos where coach Eileen Schmidt downplays the NCAA talk in favor of staying focused on the next set of games. Still, as the article points out (read it here), the team would love to make history for the program even if it means missing graduation.
“We have a little work to do before that happens, but we have a good chance to do it in the next couple of weeks,” coach Eileen Schmidt said about making Regionals. “If we just continue to do what we’re doing, good things happen to teams that work hard and make their own luck.”
During Schmidt’s third year as coach, the Cavaliers are finally beginning to click together. They boast a legitimate ace in freshman pitcher Melanie Mitchell and a fearsome heart of the order in senior right fielder Sarah Tacke and senior pitcher Nicole Koren.
“Our heads are in the game more this year — our pitching has gotten a lot better, and our team chemistry has gotten a lot better,” Tacke said.
Monday, April 19th, 2010
Over the years one of the things Brian O’Connor has tried to instill in his baseball clubs is the folly of getting too high after a big win or too low after a big loss. There’s always a series win over No. 2 Georgia Tech to pick you up after a tough series loss in Raleigh. There’s always a 12-3 VMI spanking to bring you down to earth after a big series win over the second-ranked team in the land. And there’s always a better day coming after seeing a sweep of No. 20 Virginia Tech slip through your fingers. Rest assured Virginia will bounce back from Tech’s 8-5 come-from-behind win Sunday.
“It was a tough game but it happens,” said Virginia centerfielder Jarrett Parker. “We’ve [come from behind to win] before and that’s baseball.”
Tyler Wilson, who along with closer Kevin Arico, struggled to hold Virginia’s two-run lead Sunday (giving up two hits and two earned runs) agreed.
“Winning and losing is part of the game,” Wilson said. “We had a tough series loss a couple of weekends ago and bounced back really well. We’ve shown that we can do that all season.”
Not just all season, but as long as O’Connor has been at Virginia.
Saturday, April 17th, 2010
Make no mistake Pete Hughes has a pretty good baseball club. Justin Wright’s numbers say he’s an average pitcher but anyone that can pitch around six walks and surrender two runs to a solid offensive club like Virginia had a good night in my opinion. He worked inside-out very effectively and kept a good fastball-hitting team off balance most of the evening with a good fastball. The Tech outfield has excellent range and made several hit-robbing plays, especially centerfielder Sean Ryan. Austin Wates appears effortless when making plays in right field and this is a solid hitting squad.
A very good club – but not a championship level club. Not yet.
The difference in this game, as it was a week ago against Georgia Tech, was Virginia’s ability to deliver, offensively and defensively, when the pressure was on and the Hokies’ inability to do so.
After tying the game in the top of the eighth inning on Andrew Rash’s opposite-field shot over the right-center wall, starter Danny Hultzen gave way to Tyler Wilson, who came in and slammed the door. He sat down two of the three Hokies he faced via the strikeout.
With a tie score in late innings, the Hoos responded in the clutch just as they did a week ago. Dan Grovatt led off the bottom of the eighth with a single. That’s when Virginia skipper Brian O’Connor put the pressure on the Hokie defense by sending Grovatt and forcing Tech catcher Steve Domecus to loft a wild throw over the head of the second baseman. Grovatt advanced to third to set up an RBI opportunity for Cavalier John Hicks.
“We had a man on first and coach gave me the bunt,” said Hicks. “[Ben Rowen] threw me a couple of strikes but they were a little off and I didn’t want to offer at them and then he threw me a lot of balls and when Grovatt stole it gave me the opportunity to swing away. I’d seen a lot of pitches; I’d seen his best stuff so I spread out and tried to get a ball deep enough in the air to get the run in.”
The Cavaliers loaded the bases. Against the pressure of playing on the big stage while seeing their stud closer roughed up for three hits and a hit-batsman, the Hokie defense floundered. Tech first baseman Ronnie Shaban lost a chance for an potential inning-ending double play when he dropped the ball in an the transfer from his glove while attempting to make the lead throw to second. VT posted no outs on the play and allowing Hicks to score the Cavaliers’ an extra run of insurance at 4-2.
Compare the lapses of Rowen and Shaban to the execution of Virginia closer Kevin Arico and the Wahoo defense. In the ninth, after surrendering a lead-off single to Wates, Shaban hits a hard grounder to Virginia shortstop Tyler Cannon. He fields it cleanly, waits patiently for Keith Werman to get to the bag, makes a perfect toss and Werman pivots and rifles a laser to Hicks to complete the 6-4-3 double play. Arico handles the rest by fanning Tech pinch hitter Matt Blow swinging.
That’s the difference in the two clubs right now. One team got the job down offensively when it needed to do so. One closer shut the door, the other did not. One defense executed when the pressure was on and one did not. That’s the difference between good and championship good.
Game note: One of The Sabre posters wanted to know why the Hoos were swinging at so many first pitches. The answer is what I thought it would be but I thought I’d go to the source to confirm. The Cavaliers always have been a team that hits fastballs very well so most teams will feed the Hoos a lot of breaking and off-speed stuff. Wright and even Rowen came with a lot of fastballs early and Virginia hitters typically are told when they see a fastball they like to swing. That’s what the guys I spoke with last confirmed they did. I guess they saw a lot of them that they liked, but not too many landed in the right spot.
Wednesday, April 14th, 2010
While doing an interview with the parents of Virginia men’s tennis player Houston Barrick for a feature on Houston, I asked them a couple questions on what they think of Brian Boland from the perspective of a parent. They did not fit into the article (read it here – subscription to Sabre EDGE required), but I thought the quotes were worth sharing.
Steve Barrick, Houston’s father, evaluated Boland’s coaching ability. His reaction carries additional credibility given that he serves as the associate athletic director at Belmont University.
“I’ve always said, I think Coach Boland is one of the best coaches in America in any sport,” Steve Barrick said. “He’s a CEO; he’s put some pieces of the puzzle together. He’s got good assistant coaches, he’s a great recruiter, he’s a good politician, and he’s a great teacher. I think he’s a great mental teacher. I think he does more for the guys emotionally than anybody I’ve ever been around.”
Jan Barrick – who played tennis at Belmont – also spoke of how Boland changed her son.
“I think he made him be a better man – from taking care of the details, taking care of the little things, and realizing that, it’s not just what happens on the court, but it’s the whole package, who you are on and off the court. When you go in the gate or out the gate, you represent your school, your team – your family.”
Wednesday, April 14th, 2010
When Virginia unveiled its new football uniforms last week, people had mixed reactions. When it comes to fashion, that’s expected. One thing almost everyone agrees on, however, is that having orange back in the uniform closet is a great move!
Rest assured, Mike London and the Cavaliers had the fans in mind with the decision.
“We’re always asking them to wear orange and The Power of Orange and all that stuff so I think it is important that we be representative of what they wear already in the stands,” London said. “Maybe one of the particular games we get the word out that we’re having an orange out or a blue out or a white out by what we’re wearing. We wanted to bring the orange back for sure.”
“I think it’s important to get the orange back,” cornerback Ras-I Dowling said. “I know the fans wear orange so there will be a lot of orange in the crowd so why can’t we wear orange on the field. It’s a chance for us to have orange with our fans and just be as one.”
If you want to see more free photos of the uniforms, click here!