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Virginia Hopes to Break Away From Recent History

The Virginia Cavaliers have made the College World Series a routine over the last 15 years under Coach Brian O’Connor. Unfortunately, the ‘Hoos, losers of five straight in Omaha, have found themselves in an all too familiar place in recent years. After a one run loss to North Carolina on Friday afternoon to open the College World Series, Virginia is once again playing in the losers’ bracket with their season on the line. 

In 2021, Virginia won their opener against Tennessee and led their second game over eventual National Champion Mississippi State in the late innings. They promptly collapsed in that game and then lost to Texas their next time out. 

In 2023, UVA led late in their opening game against eventual runner up Florida when pitching options were exhausted again. A one run loss to Florida became a one run loss to TCU and Virginia was on their way home before the weekend was over. The team can’t help but connect the echoes of last year to their current situation.

“I mean, it's tough,” said right fielder Casey Saucke. “We got walked off last year, walked off this year, both in the first game.”

Shortstop Griff O’Ferrall, who has been the face of this team all season, looked particularly dejected in the post-game press conference. The Richmond, Virginia native didn’t try to hide his disappointment as he described UVA’s next steps.

“We’re not going to go in there and hype everyone back up where everyone is very excited to be here,” said O’Ferrall. “We’ll be super focused. The only thing we can control is winning the next game.”

Saucke echoed his teammate’s sentiments. “All we can do is win the next game,” he said. “We're gonna bounce back on Sunday, and we're gonna give it our all, and whatever happens, happens.”

Virginia’s offense has been one of the best in the country all season and yet they’ve struggled to score runs at times in the postseason. And one of the things the ‘Hoos have prided themselves on under the last two decades of Brian O’Connor is executing the little things– something they did not do well on Friday against North Carolina.

“Your margin for error is so small, and you’ve got to be on top of everything to win in Omaha,” O’Connor said.

So, how will Virginia bounce back when recent program history weighs on their shoulders? Griff O’Ferrall mentioned executing the small details, which would be a good start. Coach O’Connor stressed the need to be more opportunistic.

Saucke credited the offensive ability as the primary factor in bouncing back after difficult losses such as this. 

“I think we've been super consistent,” said the Rochester, New York native. “We’ve got to get the bats going and support our pitchers a little bit. If we play our game, we're gonna win.”

O’Connor’s final message of the post-UNC press conference was simple.

“Be better, period. End of story. Unacceptable. [This was] not Virginia baseball.”

Virginia will play fellow ACC program Florida State on Sunday afternoon at 1pm Central in the first elimination game of the 2024 College World Series. Jay Woolfolk will start on the mound for the ‘Hoos while Carson Dorsey will take the bump for Florida State.

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