The Hoos hit the road with a two game winning streak in tow. ACC "rival" Louisville will be the destination this weekend. The Cards are coming off an impressive win over top ten ranked SEC rival Kentucky. If UVA wants to make a serious run at the postseason, a series win against the Cardinals would be the place to start.
Virginia - 22-16 (Overall), 7-11 (ACC)
Louisville 25-11 (Overall), 9-9 (ACC)
As we get closer to the end of the regular season, it's time to keep an eye on what the rest of the league is doing. As a reminder, the top 12 teams in the standings advance to pool play in the ACC Tournament.
Other ACC series this weekend include:
Clemson at Wake Forest
Florida State at Boston College
Georgia Tech at North Carolina
NC State at Duke
Virginia Tech at Notre Dame
Pittsburgh at Miami
Friday - 6 PM
Saturday - 1 PM
Sunday - 1 PM
Projected Starting Pitchers
Friday - UVA: RHP Derek Casey (5-2, 3.05 ERA, 62.0 IP, 13 walks, 74 strikeouts) vs Louisville: LHP Adam Wolf (4-2, 2.36 ERA, 53.1 IP, 17 walks, 63 strikeouts)
Derek Casey followed up his complete game shutout of Virginia Tech with another six innings of shutout baseball in the Hoos' 4 to 0 win over UNC in the series opener last Friday. Casey has now pitched 15 consecutive scoreless innings. Against the Tarheels, he gave up 7 hits, walked 2, and struck out 4 while picking up his 5th win on the season. Casey's 74 strikeouts are good for third in the ACC.
Opposing Derek Casey will be junior left hander Adam Wolf. The Hoos will have their work cut out for them as Wolf's stats show that he's had an excellent season for Louisville. The Cardinals are 3-3 in his ACC starts this season, but they've won the last two against Virginia Tech and NC State. Prior to that, they had lost his previous three ACC starts. In his start last Friday against the Hokies, Wolf allowed 2 runs (earned) in 6.0 innings. He scattered 9 hits and struck out 8 against no walks. He also hit 1 batter in the 3 to 2 Louisville win.
Wolf, who considered UVA during his recruitment, is no stranger to pitching against the Hoos. He's pitched against UVA in each of his prior two seasons with Louisville. As a freshman in 2016, he made one relief appearance. In 2.0 innings, he allowed 2 hits, 1 run (earned), 0 walks, and struck out 2. As a sophomore in 2017, Wolf made two relief appearances against UVA. He picked up the win for the Cards each time. In those two appearances, Wolf pitched a total of 2.0 innings, allowed 2 runs (both unearned), gave up 2 hits, allowed no walks, and struck out 2.
Saturday - UVA: LHP Daniel Lynch (2-3, 4.15 ERA, 60.2 IP, 14 walks, 75 strikeouts) vs Louisville: LHP Nick Bennett (4-0, 1.45 ERA, 31.0 IP, 10 walks, 35 strikeouts)
Daniel Lynch's streak of consecutive starts with 10 or more strikeouts ended at four when he struck out only 7 in UVA's 8 to 6 loss last Saturday against North Carolina. In one of the more interesting subplots within the season, Lynch was able to overcome Derek Casey's team lead in strikeouts, however. Lynch now holds a 1 strikeout lead over Casey heading into the Louisville series. That extra K allows Lynch to claim the number two spot on the ACC leaderboard as well. While the strikeouts were still a bright spot, Lynch is coming off of a rough outing against the Tarheels. He lasted 7.0 innings but gave up 6 runs (earned) on 11 hits. Lynch will need to be sharper against Louisville this weekend for the Hoos to have a legitimate shot at winning on Saturday.
Sophomore Nick Bennett, also a lefty, will get the nod for Louisville. Last season, Bennett was an All ACC pitcher and freshman All American. Saturday's start against UVA will be his fourth consecutive weekend start. He's delivered a credible start in each effort and has pitched exceptionally well, arguably, in 3 of those 4 starts. Last weekend against the Hokies, Bennett gave up 1 unearned run in 8.0 innings pitched. Louisville won the game 3 to 1. Bennett allowed 3 hits, walked 1, and struck out 7.
This will be Bennett's second career start against UVA. Last season, he started the Sunday game in Charlottesville. That was a 4 to 3 Louisville win in which Friday's Louisville starter Adam Wolf picked up the win in relief. In the start, Bennett lasted 3.1 innings, giving up 3 runs (earned), 5 hits, no walks, and struck out 1.
Sunday - UVA: TBD vs Louisville: RHP Bobby Miller (4-1, 1.13 ERA, 24.0 IP, 9 walks, 22 strikeouts)
The Hoos are going with TBD again on Sunday. That has meant Grant Donahue in the past but after last week's 12 to 6 loss to UNC in which Donahue lasted 0.1 innings and gave up 4 runs (2 earned), Coach O'Connor noted that he'd take a look at UVA's approach to the starting pitcher in Sunday games. What that means remains to be seen as the other most likely options pitched in mid-week roles this past week. Former Sunday starter Bobby Nicholson started against George Washington and threw 6.0 innings. Freshman Kyle Whitten earned his first start the next day against Liberty and went 4.2 innings. Fellow freshman Griff McGarry who sometimes starts in the mid-week games, especially when there is more than one, pitched the last 3.0 innings against Liberty.
So who's left? It's always possible that Donahue gets the start again. That's probably the most likely option. It's conceivable that freshman lefty Andrew Abbott gets a chance but he's UVA's best pitcher out of the bullpen. Nominal closer Bennett Sousa has starting experience in his career and is certainly capable of four or five innings. And then there's Noah Murdock who returned from Tommy John surgery last week against Radford and pitched one inning. He's about due for another appearance but his pitch count would be severley limited so it doesn't make sense to give him a weekend start. The other long shot possibility would be an unannounced return from injury for Evan Sperling, the original Sunday starting pitcher for the Hoos this season.
Louisville, on the other hand, seemingly has their weekend rotation in a groove. This will be the third weekend in a row that the Cards have gone Wolf-Bennett-Miller. Miller is a freshman and has 10 appearances on the season. The last two Sunday starts are his only career starts to date. His first career start two weekends ago against NC State wasn't one to remember. He gave up 3 runs (unearned) and 3 hits over 3.0 innings while walking 2 and striking out 3. Last weekend against Virginia Tech, however, was much more to Miller's liking. He cruised along for 6.0 innings pitched while surrendering only 1 run (earned). The Hokies managed 3 hits, walked no times, and struck out four times against Miller. The Cards lost Miller's start against NC State 10 to 3 but beat Virginia Tech 16 to 1.
Weather Watch (Courtesy of Weather.com)
If dry weather with temps in the low to mid 60s is your thing, then Louisville, Kentucky is where you should spend your time this weekend. It's definitely decent baseball weather, that's for sure.
The best news for the Hoos is that they won't deal with winter type temperatures that tend to put their bats into a state of hibernation. They'll only have to deal with Louisville's pitching staff.
Our friends at ACC Network Extra come through again! Each game of the series will have live streaming. You can find the broadcasts on your ESPN streaming platform of choice.
The UVA radio broadcast will be featured on VirginiaSports.com for each game.
And locally in Charlottesville, WINA will carry each game on their over the air broadcast.
In a series that dates back to only 2015, UVA has struggled with Louisville. The Cardinals lead the all-time series 7-3 and hold a 3 series to 0 lead as well. Anyone who remembers the series last year will recall that some questionable calls from the boys in blue handed Louisville game three and the series win.
The good news for the Hoos is that Louisville's talent is a bit down this year after losing several professional caliber players to the draft in recent years. UVA fans can relate to that well.
The Cardinals have been much more consistent than the Hoos all year and that's reflected in each team's respective record. While the Hoos started out ranked and gradually vanished from the national polls, Louisville finds itself still ranked and a lock for the ACC and NCAA Tournaments.
Louisville would be favored to win this series if it was played in Louisville or Charlottesville. The bad news for the Hoos is that they find themselves in the visitor's dugout this weekend. UVA is 2-9 in true road games this season.
I like UVA to win one of the first two games in the series because of Casey and Lynch. There are just too many question marks to predict a win Sunday. Louisville doesn't get the sweep but does win the series 2 to 1.