Due to the weather, some customers may experience late delivery of The Roanoke Times. We apologize for the delay.
The Cavaliers expected to advance to the Super Regionals. Making the CWS is the main goal.
The Virginia baseball players leave their dugout to celebrate after the Cavaliers defeated Elon 11-3 to clinch their NCAA regional on Sunday in Charlottesville.
Virginia's Joe McCarthy (31), Mike Papi (38) and Brandon Downes (10) celebrate the 11-3 win over Elon in the NCAA regional final in Charlottesville on Sunday.
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Virginia’s post-regional victory celebration hit all the familiar notes.
A Davenport Field crowd of nearly 4,000 stood and cheered. UVa’s players lined the edge of the dugout, rushing the field as soon as reliever Josh Sborz induced a game-ending grounder to finish off Elon 11-3.
But the Cavaliers’ on-field revelry was relatively subdued. No dog-piling, just handshakes.
The tone was clear: A regional championship isn’t their ultimate goal.
“Expectations are huge here,” UVa coach Brian O’Connor said. “That’s fine. We welcome it. We don’t hide from it. And I think that it’s a sign that we’ve done some really good things.”
Four regional championships in five years will do that for a program. But that success has also raised the expectations.
The Cavaliers reached the 50-win mark for the third time in their history. They’ve made 10 straight NCAA tournament appearances, hosted four straight regionals and are seeking their third College World Series appearance since 2009.
So winning a regional doesn’t quite have the same juice it used to, which O’Connor called unfortunate.
“I think sometimes players 17 to 22, 23 years old can put entirely too much pressure on themselves, but that comes with the territory when you build a program like we have,” O’Connor said.
“You have 5,000 people in the stadium that want to win. The players want to win, the coaches want to win. There’s a lot of pressure, and that has come with the success that we’ve had. That will never change.”
Nevertheless, Sunday night’s win meant a little more than usual for a Virginia team that was ousted in its own regional last year, the first time since 2008 the Cavaliers didn’t advance past the NCAA tournament’s opening weekend.
That veteran group lost so many players that UVa wasn’t even ranked in most preseason polls.
“We knew within the clubhouse how good we could be,” shortstop Nick Howard said. “I guess the media didn’t really know a bunch of the names that were returning, but in that clubhouse, we knew what we were capable of. We just needed to go out and show it.”
O’Connor’s group is young this year — seven of the nine players in the lineup Sunday were sophomores or younger — but it got a taste of postseason play last season, even though the run was abbreviated.
“We talk about the sophomore class and the so-called youth and inexperience coming into this team,” he said. “But you think about all those players, they all played in this regional last year in this ballpark. So they’ve had this experience. … I firmly believe it had something to do with us — a lot to do with us — winning this regional championship.”
Virginia, the No. 6 national seed, will play Mississippi State in the Super Regional next weekend. The Bulldogs beat Central Arkansas 6-1 Monday to decide the Starkville, Miss., Regional championship.
That means another week that the Cavaliers can sleep in their own beds, work out at their own gym and practice on their own field. Getting through the regional in three games also gives Virginia an extra day of rest, welcome news for a team that generally uses the same lineup .
History is on UVa’s side. The two previous times it swept through the regional (2009, ’11), Virginia advanced to the College World Series.
O’Connor knows that to get back to Omaha, the Cavaliers need to simply keep knocking on that door.
“Our goal every year is to put ourselves in this position,” O’Connor said. “The consistency part of it is so important.”
Weather JournalNew batch of moisture for PM