As #13 Virginia heads into the final ACC series of the season at Georgia Tech, two of the school's stars are vying for the ACC batting title. At one point over this past weekend, catcher Kyle Teel and shortstop Griff O'Ferrall were tied for the conference lead with a .415 batting average. After an ACC Player of the Week performance by Clemson's Billy Amick, however, Teel finds himself second with a .406 average, while O'Ferrall's .393 average has fallen behind Miami's Yohandy Morales and Amick's freshman teammate at Clemson, Cam Cannerella.
With the final regular season series and postseason play still to go, it's anyone's guess at the moment who will come out on top. Following Sunday's win over Louisville, O'Ferrall said, "Honestly, that's not a real big thought in my head, just because we're getting down to crunch time right now." The second-year shortstop out of Richmond, VA, went 6-14 in the Cavaliers' sweep of Louisville over the weekend and was an integral part of Virginia getting its first ACC series win in over a month.
"We had a couple tough weekends in a row," O'Ferrall continued. "Having that weekend off from playing games zoned [us] back in on what we do as a team." With the postseason fast approaching, Virginia is focused on finishing the season strong. They took a big step towards doing so with their sweep of Louisville this weekend.
Teel has been one of the nation's best hitters all year and is expected to go in the first round of this year's MLB Draft. But he's not focused on the draft or the ACC batting title. "What we're focusing on is just taking it day by day, pitch by pitch and doing what we need to do," the standout catcher said on Sunday after a 3-3 performance in the series finale.
When both players were asked if there was a friendly competition brewing between them for who would end the season with the higher batting average, both were quick to quell that kind of discussion. "We haven't really talked," O'Ferrall replied. "We don't talk about it much, but last night we went and hit together, and we definitely had some competitions and stuff."
"No, but I will say this: we were together in the cage last night having a little hitting 'sesh' off the machine," Teel said, after he was asked the same question. "I don't know, we just glue together when we put in work." Both players had gone "0-for" the previous night and praised that joint hitting session as the key to getting back on track in Sunday's win.
Teel has led the ACC in hitting for much of the season, with the aforementioned Amick only overtaking him this past weekend. O'Farrell has been impressed with how his high profile teammate has thrived under the pressure. "Coming into the year he has a big name, so everyone is pitching him carefully, pitching him off-speed, trying to do anything to keep him off-balance, and he just hasn't looked uncomfortable. He's been great in every at-bat, every game."
While Teel and Jake Gelof as "big names" get much of the attention in the Virginia lineup, it's O'Ferrall who sets the tone for the 'Hoos as their lead-off man. He's currently second in the ACC with 64 runs scored. Teel, when asked about his younger teammate, who has solidified himself as the conference's top shortstop, said, "He just puts his head down and works hard every day. He’s a great leader, and he leads by example."
Virginia is in the conversation to host its first NCAA Regional since 2016. To do so, they'll need to rely on the likes of O'Ferrall and Teel to continue having big performances. With a strong finish, either one could claim the ACC batting title, but that will always be a secondary prize to a team achievement. With crossed arms and a shrug, O'Ferrall added one last comment on the topic. "We definitely push each other. If at the end of the day me and Kyle get in a friendly competition, then that’s awesome too.”
Virginia is set to play its last conference series starting on Thursday in Atlanta, against Georgia Tech. The ACC Tournament begins the following Tuesday, May 23, in Durham, NC.