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Liberty Preview

Posted on April 18, 2018, in Baseball by Karl Hess.

Last night, UVA won a 12 inning marathon against George Washington. Freshman Brendan Rivoli played the hero again with a walk-off double that scored fellow freshman Alex Tappen. Now, it's a quick turnaround for the Hoos as they play Liberty this evening. The Flames arrive in Charlottesville on a five game winning streak. They've also won eight of their last nine.

Team Records

Virginia:  21-16 overall, 6-10 ACC

Liberty:  22-12 overall, 10-5 Big South

Game Schedule

Wednesday - 6 PM

Projected Starting Pitchers

UVA:  TBD vs Liberty:  TBD

Neither team has tipped their hand yet. 

For UVA, Griff McGarry is the most likely option to get the start. Freshman Kyle Whitten could be another option if the Hoos want to give someone else a crack at a start. Noah Murdock could be a wild card choice depending on if he's ready to go again after his abbreviated season debut against Radford last week. However, if Murdock were to get the call, it would be on a very limited pitch count.

Looking at Liberty's schedule on the season does not reveal a predictable mid-week option. Forced to pick, I'd say the Flames will likely go with junior right hander Andrew Stout or freshman right hander Mason Hand. Stout got the start for Liberty last Tuesday against Richmond but only lasted 1 inning before being replaced by Hand. In that inning, Stout gave up 5 runs (4 earned), 4 hits, 2 walks, struck out none, and threw 1 wild pitch.

Hand was able to finish the game for Liberty in their 6 to 5 win over the Spiders. In his 8 innings of work, Hand allowed no runs, 3 hits, walked 1, hit 1, and struck out 4. He earned the first win of his career and was named the Big South Relief Pitcher of the Week for his efforts.

Neither pitcher saw any action in Liberty's three game series against conference foe Charleston Southern over the weekend. Stout's start against Richmond is the only start on the season between the two, however.

Series History

Since 2012, Liberty and UVA have played every season. UVA owns a 7 game winning streak in the series and holds the overall series lead 37-21-1. 

Former UVA player Tyler Cannon is on the coaching staff at Liberty. Cannon was a member of the baseball team from 2007-2010. He was the starting shortstop on UVA's first College World Series team in 2009. Cannon, also a member of the national runner up team's coaching staff in 2014, is UVA's all-time leader in games played (244) and doubles (62).

Weather Watch (Courtesy of Weather.com)

It looks to be a pleasant evening at the ballpark tonight. Gone are the frigid temps from Tuesday night. Replacing them will be something more spring like, lower 70s to upper 60s at game time. There's no precipitation in the forecast either tonight. Hopefully the nice weather encourages more than a handful of fans to come to the game.

Media Coverage

This game will have the same setup as last night. Video streaming will be courtesy of ACC Network Extra on your ESPN streaming platform of choice.

WINA will carry the game on the radio in the Charlottesville area. They'll also stream the radio broadcast at WINA.com.

Flames To Watch

UVA pitchers will need a keen focus on staying near the strike zone as Liberty places an emphasis on drawing walks.

Junior Tre Todd, the reigning Big South Player of the Week, leads the country in drawing walks with 43. He leads the Big South and is sixth nationally in on base percentage at .531. Todd is Liberty's starting catcher and sometimes an outfielder. In addition to leading the Big South in walks and OBP, he's fifth in batting average (.348), second in RBI (39), tied for second in triples (3), tied for fourth in home runs (8), and tied for seventh in total bases (74). Todd also leads the Big South in slugging percentage (.661).

Not to be overshadowed by Todd, junior outfielder DJ Artis led the nation in walks in 2017. This season he's second in the Big South behind Todd and sixth nationally with 35. Artis is dangerous once he gets on base as he's second in the Big South and twenty second nationally in stolen bases with 18. Artis also ranks fourteenth nationally in runs scored with 41. In the Big South, Artis appears on the statistical leaderboard often as well. He's sixth in OBP (.462), tied for eighth in doubles (9), and tied for second in triples (3). Artis has also reached base in every Liberty game this season.

Prediction

The lack of pitching information from both teams makes this game a complete wildcard. It's clear that the Hoos are going to need a good performance from the entire staff. They'll have to stay patient as Todd and Artis will pick their spots trying to get on base via the walk if they don't get their pitch to hit. Chances are that UVA will be using a few young pitchers this game and that can work to their disadvantage.

I mentioned in the GW preview that UVA doesn't seem to hit well in cold weather this year. The game against the Colonials held true in that regard. If that pattern continues, then UVA should have a nice offensive performance today as the temps should be in the upper 60s at minimum per the Weather Watch section.

Liberty is coming into this game hot and will be fired up to take down an ACC foe. The Flames are 2-3 against ACC competition this season. They're 1-0 against Virginia Tech and 1-0 against Wake Forest on the season. They're also 0-3 against North Carolina. Unfortunately, I think Liberty evens their ACC record at 3-3 and beats the Hoos tonight.