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O'Ferrall Shows Power as #14 UVA Fends Off Hofstra

Griff O'Ferrall played 62 games before hitting his first and only home run of the season in 2023. It took the junior shortstop just five pitches of his plate plate appearance to hit his first home run of 2024. Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the first on Opening Day, O'Ferrall launched a 3-1 pitch 413 feet to left field to tie the game in the early goings. His home run and Anthony Stephan's 4th inning double were the only UVA hits in the first five innings as Virginia found itself trailing a gritty Hofstra team 4-1 through 5.5 innings on Friday.

"We were a little over-amped coming in, which is to be expected on Opening Day," O'Ferrall said. "We just had to step back and trust what we had been doing in practice, trust the coaching, trust how we were going up to the plate with our plan. Once we did that, we started to lock back in."

They got locked back in for good in the 6th inning. It started with freshman Eric Becker getting hit by a pitch to lead off the frame before scoring following back-to-back singles from O'Ferrall and Stephan. After Ethan Anderson walked to load the bases with nobody out, freshman local Henry Ford stepped into the batter's box under the bright lights with his Virginia Cavaliers trailing 4-2.

The debutante singled past a diving second baseman for his first collegiate hit to score O'Farrell and Stephan and tie the game back up at 4-4.

Henry Ford, a Charlottesville native, has been going to UVA baseball games since he was three months old. His most memorable game at the Dish occurred when he was 6 years old. "The Chris Taylor walk-off [in 2011] was the most memorable, I'll never forget that," he said postgame. Well I think he'll have a new most memorable game after a two hit, two RBI debut while hitting clean up for his hometown 'Hoos.

Virginia was not finished scoring in the 6th inning, as Casey Saucke gave the 'Hoos their first lead of the game following a sac fly. Then sophomore Harrison Didawick blasted a two-run shot to left center to make it 7-4. All said, UVA scored six runs in the 6th inning and appeared ready to coast to a victory.

Hofstra had other ideas, however. The Pride added two runs in the 7th and one in the 8th to tie the game at 7-7. All 3 runs were off Kevin Jaxel. A string of walks and wild pitches from Hofstra saw the game get away from them once again, as Virginia scored 3 unearned runs to make regain their three run cushion, 10-7.

Hofstra wouldn't go away quietly as they added a run and put the tying man in scoring position, but two-way star Aidan Teel came in and shut the door for the 10-8 win in his collegiate debut.

While the pitching and pick off moves weren't particularly impressive for the Cavaliers on Opening Day, they earned a gritty win over a resilient Hofstra squad that can hit the bat. The Pride actually outhit the Cavs, 15 to 7, and Dylan Palmer was particularly impressive with a four hit day. But much of the postgame buzz was about the two UVA home runs.

Virginia is going to miss their two power bats in Kyle Teel and home run king Jake Gelof, both of whom have moved on to pro baseball, but the team has been working hard in the offseason to hopefully mitigate that loss of power in the lineup.

"Everyone's definitely put on some weight," O'Ferrall said. "I know [Didawick] is up like 15 pounds or something, I'm up 10. A lot of guys have thickened out a bit."

O'Ferrall, who only had three career homers heading into this season, is expected to be a top two round pick in the next MLB draft. If home run power is something that he's added to his already impressive resume, expect him to shoot up the draft boards, especially considering this year's shortstop class is fairly shallow.

After several home runs at Team USA training camp and the lead off homer tonight, that new found power certainly seems to be a possibility, but the Richmond native was adamant that wasn't who he is.

"I wasn't trying to, I am definitely not trying to. That's never really been the style of hitter I am. Of course I am happy that it happened, but it's not going to be something where I change my whole game because of it."

Whether or not this home run is a sign of increased power or not, Virginia's lead off man is vital to his team's success. O'Ferrall has the school record for hits in a season and is the catalyst for their offense. His 2-4 performance on Opening Day is just picking up where he left off in 2023. It wasn't the prettiest, but O'Ferrall doesn't care.

"We're just happy to get the win."

UVA continues their series with Hofstra today at 1 p.m.. Sophomore lefthander Evan Blanco is scheduled to pitch for the 'Hoos.

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