The interminable exam break is over! We get to see our Wahoo baseball team take the field again this weekend beginning Friday evening. The Yellow Jackets from Georgia Tech will be in town for three. This will be the final ACC home series of the season and will also include Senior Day festivities. If UVA plans on qualifying for the ACC Tournament this month, a series win against Georgia Tech would be a great place to start with only a road series at Wake Forest remaining in conference play after this weekend.
Virginia: 25-20 (Overall), 9-15 (ACC)
Georgia Tech: 27-22 (Overall), 11-13 (ACC)
Because ESPNU will be broadcasting the third game of the series nationally, it's moved from the typical Sunday afternoon slot into Monday evening.
Friday - 6 PM
Saturday - 4 PM (Senior Day)
Monday - 7 PM
Here's how the ACC landscape looks heading into the penultimate weekend of conference play. The top 12 teams advance into pool play at the ACC Tournament. UVA currently holds a 1 game lead over Virginia Tech for 12th place.
Other ACC action this weekend includes:
Mount St. Mary's at Florida State
Miami at Virginia Tech
North Carolina at Duke
Wake Forest at NC State
Austin Peay at Clemson
Louisville at Pittsburgh
Projected Starting Pitchers
Friday - UVA: RHP Derek Casey (5-3, 3.23 ERA, 75.1 IP, 17 walks, 88 strikeouts) vs GT: RHP Xzavion Curry (7-2, 3.50 ERA, 74.2 IP, 19 walks, 81 strikeouts)
With the week off for exams, Casey has fallen to fourth in the ACC in strikeouts. In his last outing against Clemson, Casey took the loss but kept the Hoos in the game pitching into the 7th inning. He ultimately gave UVA a quality start with 6.2 innings pitched giving up 8 hits, 3 runs (earned), walking 2, and striking out 6. The start against the Tigers was Casey's seventh quality start on the season. He's also been adept at keeping strain off of the UVA bullpen, pitching into the 7th inning in seven of his last eight starts. Casey should have plenty in his tank tonight after the extended break. Wahoo fans should expect another quality outing that goes deep into the game.
Georgia Tech will counter with sophomore Xzavion Curry. The right hander was the ACC Pitcher of the Week for April 2 and April 30 this season. Curry has made twenty seven career appearances as a pitcher for Georgia Tech in his two seasons. All twenty seven have come as a starter including twelve this season. As a freshman, Curry became the first Yellow Jacket true freshman to start the season opener since 1995.
Curry's last start was a 7 inning no decision last Friday against Radford. The Yellow Jackets won the game 6 to 5 on the strength of 3 runs in the bottom of the 9th. In his 7 innings, Curry gave up 4 hits, 3 runs (earned), walked none, and struck out 8. In his last ACC start, Curry dominated Wake Forest in a 2 to 0 Yellow Jacket victory. Curry pitched a complete game against the Deacons while surrendering only 2 hits. He walked 2 and struck out 12. The 12 strikeouts tied a career high. His prior ACC start against UNC was a struggle, however. UNC won the game 9 to 3 while Curry lasted only 4.2 innings. The Tar Heels managed 8 hits and 7 runs (earned) against Curry in that outing. Curry has started every weekend series opener for Georgia Tech this season.
Last season, Curry started the series opener against UVA in Atlanta. Georgia Tech won that game 14 to 7. Curry got credit for the win going 6 innings. He allowed 8 hits and 5 runs (earned). He walked none, hit 1, struck out 3, and threw 3 wild pitches.
Saturday - UVA: RHP Noah Murdock (1-1, 10.12 ERA, 5.1 IP, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts) vs GT: LHP Connor Thomas (5-3, 3.04 ERA, 80.0 IP, 8 walks, 93 strikeouts)
Murdock's return from elbow surgery continues this weekend as the Hoos shake up their weekend rotation lineup. Murdock and Lynch flip their rotation order with Murdock taking the second game of the series. As to be expected, Murdock has been up and down in very limited action since returning against Radford in April. This start against the Yellow Jackets will be Murdock's fourth appearance on the season and third start. The 2.1 innings pitched in his last start against Clemson represents Murdock's longest stint on the season. It was also his most difficult outing. Against Clemson, Murdock gave up 6 hits and 5 runs (earned). He also walked 1, threw 1 wild pitch, and struck out 3 in the 9 to 8 win for the Tigers.
Georgia Tech will be starting another sophomore against the Hoos. This time, it's lefty Connor Thomas. Thomas' sophomore season includes ACC Co-Pitcher of the Week honors for April 6, Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Week honors for April 30, and Perfect Game/Rawlings College Pitcher of the Week honors for May 1. The UVA Game Notes also indicate that Thomas is the reigning NCBWA National Pitcher of the Month for April. During April, Thomas went 2-0 with a 1.41 ERA and two complete games. Those complete games came against Florida State in a 2 to 1 Georgia Tech win and Wake Forest in a 5 to 1 Georgia Tech win. The Wake Forest game saw Thomas strike out a career high 17 batters.
Thomas has started the second game of every ACC series this year for Georgia Tech. In his last start against Radford last Saturday, Thomas went 6 innings for the Yellow Jackets. He gave up 7 hits, 2 runs (earned), no walks, and struck out 4 in the 11 to 8 ten inning Georgia Tech win.
Thomas made two appearances against UVA last season. In the series opener in Atlanta, he pitched 0.1 innings of relief of Xzavion Curry. Thomas gave up 2 hits, 1 run (earned), 1 walk, 1 wild pitch, and struck out none. He then made his first career start in the series finale. In that start, Thomas pitched 3.0 innings. He gave up 4 hits, 4 runs (earned), walked 3, and struck out 2. UVA won that game 10 to 9 to take the series 2 games to 1.
Monday - UVA: LHP Daniel Lynch (3-4, 4.22 ERA, 74.2 IP, 18 walks, 85 strikeouts) vs GT: TBD
As mentioned prior, Murdock and Lynch have flipped in the rotation this weekend. Lynch will now start the series finale on Monday night. Lynch was not sharp in his last start against Clemson, a 5 to 4 Tigers win. Lynch gave up all 5 of Clemson's runs including surrendering three homers to the Tigers over 7 innings pitched. The 5 runs were earned. Lynch also gave up 8 hits, walked 2, threw 1 wild pitch, and struck out 6. Three of Lynch's last four starts have been workmanlike, unspectacular efforts so the change in rotation spot and extra rest will hopefully do him some good.
Georgia Tech has yet to name a starter for the series finale. The most likely starter is redshirt sophomore right hander Tristin English. English is usually the weekend series finale starter for Georgia Tech but the Yellow Jackets started true freshman lefty Brant Hurter in the finale last weekend against Radford. That change was more than likely done so that English could start the midweek game this past Tuesday against rival Georgia. English will be coming off of six days rest and should be fine to start against the Hoos.
On the season, English has made 13 appearances as a pitcher. Eight of those appearances are as a starting pitcher. He's 2-3 on the season with a 4.40 ERA in 47.0 innings pitched. He's walked 11, struck out 43, and has 1 save on the season as well. The last time out against Georgia, Thompson pitched 5.0 innings while giving up 8 hits, 3 runs (earned), 1 walk, 1 hit by pitch, and struck out 4 in the 3 to 1 Bulldogs' victory.
This would be English's first appearance as a pitcher against UVA. During his freshman season, he was exclusively a position player, mostly at first base. Last season, English took a redshirt while recovering from Tommy John surgery. English has continued to play first for Georgia Tech when not pitching and also serves as the DH when he doesn't pitch.
Weather Watch (Courtesy of Weather.com)
Friday evening's game will be a warm one. Temps will be in the mid 80s with mostly cloudy skies at the start. Temps should drop into the mid 70s as the game progresses. There will be a slight breeze and low humidity. There's also a 25% chance of rain during the game.
Saturday afternoon's game will be even warmer. Temps should be in the lower 90s at that 4 PM start with sunny to mostly sunny skies. Wind should be around 10 MPH providing some relief as well as relatively low humidity. There will be a 15% chance of rain at the game's start but that drops to zero during the game.
Monday features a 20% chance of rain. The high is 87 and the low is 67. There won't be much of a breeze at all but the partly cloudy skies should keep the effects of the sun at bay.
There will be live video streaming for Friday and Saturday thanks to ACC Network Extra. My guess is that they'll have streaming for Monday's game as well. You can find the stream on your ESPN streaming platform of choice.
WINA.com will live stream the radio broadcast of all three games. Likewise, WINA will broadcast the games on radio in the Charlottesville area.
Finally, the Hoos will make their national television debut for 2018 Monday night on ESPNU.
This series will feature two desperate teams with a lot left to play for. UVA needs wins to qualify for the ACC Tournament. Everything that may come after that is predicated on making the conference tourney. It's also the final home series of the season and Saturday's game will have Senior Day festivities.
For Georgia Tech, they're still trying to qualify for the ACC Tournament as well. They still have a difficult series with Duke waiting next weekend. The Yellow Jackets are also on the NCAA Tournament bubble. They can't afford to slip up against the Hoos.
Curry and Thomas give Georgia Tech a dangerous starting pitching combination to begin the series. They also have a good offense, currently second in the ACC with a .297 team batting average and ninth in Division 1 with 514 hits. The Georgia Tech offense is also third in the ACC in homeruns, an issue that plagued the Hoos against Clemson.
This feels like a series that will be decided by the outcome of Friday's game. Georgia Tech seems to have a decided advantage on Saturday. I'd give UVA a slight edge on Monday.
UVA is 5-7 in ACC home games. They've lost 5 in a row but 3 of those were all 1 run losses to the ACC's best team, Clemson. Overall, UVA is 19-10 at home this season. Georgia Tech has struggled on the road in Charlottesville of late, 5-12 since 2010. That mark includes series losses in their last 5 trips to Charlottesville. On the road in ACC play this season, the Yellow Jackets have also struggled. Their overall record on the road in conference play is 2-10 including losses in 5 of their last 6. They've also lost all of their ACC road series on the season.
The Hoos must not come out rusty from the exam break. Curry will be an immense challenge for the UVA offense on Friday. The Hoos will have to outlast him behind Derek Casey and then go to work on the Yellow Jacket bullpen.
Something has to give in the recent trends here. I like UVA to win the series 2 games to 1 as UVA's recent struggles in ACC play have been against teams poised to be national seeds in NCAA Tournament play, UNC and Clemson.