x

Fall is a busy time for college baseball programs. And the Hoos are no different. We're currently in the middle of the fall baseball season which is most akin to football's spring practice. Workouts are taking place. The Hoos have played, and won, scrimmages against Liberty and the Ontario Blue Jays. And the first game of the seven game Orange And Blue World Series is in the books with game two scheduled for today (October 8).

Added to this mix this offseason was a first for UVA Baseball under Brian O'Connor as an assistant coach departed the program. Karl Kuhn is now the head coach at Radford. The Hoos replaced him with the now former Illinois pitching coach Drew Dickinson.

And in the middle of those moving parts, the 2020 baseball schedule was released yesterday (October 7).

The schedule itself features 55 games. Of that, there are 35 games at home, 17 games on the road, and 3 neutral site games in Pensacola, Florida. The schedule features the customary 30 conference games (5 home series, 5 away series) and 25 out of conference games.

Let's take a deeper dive into the teams that make up the 2020 schedule. I'll break the schedule down into segments of like games (opening series / neutral site, in state out of conference, normal out of conference, conference home, and conference away).

Opening Series

As announced on October 1, the Hoos are travelling to Pensacola, Florida to start the season in the Wahoos Classic against the Oklahoma Sooners. In a bit of synergy, the minor league baseball team in Pensacola are the Blue Wahoos (the fish).

TeamConferenceGames2019 Record2019 RPI2019 PostseasonDates
Oklahoma SoonersBig 12333-2343NoneFeb 14-Feb 16

This should be a fun event between two programs with history looking to return to the postseason. The Sooners have had the upper hand against UVA in recent postseason meetings. UVA fans will certainly want to win this series a little more than most season openers. The Pensacola Blue Wahoos are reported to have one of the nicest facilities in minor league baseball as well. Blue Wahoos Stadium sits on Pensacola Bay.

 

In State - Out Of Conference

UVA will always fill its baseball schedule with other programs from Virginia. It's good for the other in state programs, good for baseball in Virginia as a whole, adds a level of familiarity from season to season, and gives UVA fans in Richmond (annually) and Norfolk (semi-annually) a chance to see the Hoos in action.

This season, there are 11 games that fit this segment of the schedule. UVA compiled a 10-2 record against these teams last season with losses to William & Mary (0-1 during the 2019 season) and Liberty (1-1 during the 2019 season).

TeamConferenceGames2019 Record2019 RPI2019 PostseasonDate(s)
VMI KeydetsSouthern117-41251NoneFeb 18
William & Mary TribeCAA133-2284NoneFeb 25
Richmond SpidersA-10128-25-1164NoneMar 3
Longwood LancersBig South111-41289NoneMar 17
JMU DukesCAA131-26165NoneMar 24
VCU RamsA-10239-1958NoneApr 7, May 12
ODU MonarchsC-USA235-2181NoneApr 14, Apr 28
Radford HighlandersBig South130-27129NoneApr 15
Liberty FlamesASun142-1940NCAA RegionalApr 21

The April 7 game versus VCU will be played at The Diamond in Richmond. The May 12 game will be played at UVA.

The April 14 game versus Old Dominion will be played at UVA. The April 28 game will be played at Harbor Park in Norfolk.

There are a few interesting storylines within this group of games.

VMI will come to Charlottesville to be the home opener for the fifth consecutive season. Despite being overmatched, VMI often gives the Hoos a run for their money. I really like this game as the home opener as the Keydets will be highly disciplined. Traditionally, they also make the Hoos work on every single pitch of the game. It's a great eye opener for the first-year players in that you cannot take a team for granted at this level of baseball.

Former Hoo Drew Blakely is now a Richmond Spider. He took the opportunity to grad transfer to Richmond in the offseason.

And, of course, former pitching coach Karl Kuhn is now the head man at Radford. This game was undoubtedly scheduled prior to Kuhn taking the job at Radford. It will be interesting to see if this is a one-off game or if the programs will play every year in the future.

Other - Out of Conference

This portion of the schedule routinely creates the most debate within the UVA Baseball fanbase. Are the games difficult enough? How will they impact our RPI as it pertains to getting into the NCAA tournament and then seeding thereafter?

There are 11 games that fit this segment of the schedule. The Hoos did not play any of these teams in 2019.

TeamConferenceGames2019 Record2019 RPI2019 PostseasonDate(s)
Bucknell BisonPatriot314-33282NoneFeb 21-Feb 23
Dartmouth Big GreenIvy315-26260NoneFeb 28-Mar 1
UMASS Lowell River HawksAmerica East220-36208NoneMar 10-Mar 11
Cornell Big RedIvy214-24209NoneMar 31-Apr 1
George Washington ColonialsA-10130-24218NoneApr 22

ACC Home Series

All ACC series are for three games. The 2019 Series record is UVA's record versus the opponent during the 2019 season. Note that UVA and UNC played one game in the 2019 ACC Tournament.

TeamDivision2019 Series2019 Record2019 RPI2019 PostseasonDates
NC StateAtlantic1-242-1718NCAA RegionalMar 6-Mar 8
Virginia TechCoastal2-126-2768NoneMar 27-Mar 29
Wake ForestAtlanticN/A31-2653NoneApr 9-Apr 11
Georgia TechCoastal1-241-178NCAA RegionalMay 8-May 10
North CarolinaCoastal1-342-1712Super RegionalMay 14-May 16

The Hoos have a pretty attractive home ACC schedule. You get the rival Hokies and Tarheels in town for three. NC State and Georgia Tech each had excellent teams last season despite disappointing in the postseason. And Wake Forest has steadily improved as a program over the last five years. A lot of Wake's improvement can be attributed to the offense generated in their bandbox of a home stadium. Not all, certainly, but a lot.

ACC Away Series

The drill here is the same as it was for the ACC home series. Note that UVA and Miami played one game in the 2019 ACC Tournament.

TeamDivision2019 Series2019 Record2019 RPI2019 PostseasonDates
PittAtlantic3-021-34194NoneMar 13-Mar 15
MiamiCoastal0-439-1817NCAA RegionalMar 20-Mar 22
LouisvilleAtlantic2-143-159CWS Semi FinalApr 3-Apr 5
Boston CollegeAtlanticN/A31-2755NoneApr 17-Apr 19
DukeCoastal1-231-2544Super RegionalApr 24-Apr 26

The ACC road series schedule is difficult with only Pitt forecast to provide any relief. Louisville has become an annual power in college baseball. Miami was a very good team last season while being very young. They should push for the league championship in 2020. Duke has developed into a very solid program making the Super Regional round the last two seasons. And Boston College is going to be promoted as a 2020 sleeper team by some in the national media.

The Hoos will not play ACC members Clemson, Florida State, and Notre Dame this season.

Final Thoughts

The strategy behind this schedule seems to be to pile up win out of conference and then use the Oklahoma series and ACC schedule to build a respectable RPI number. It's not the worst strategy in the world as series wins against Oklahoma and in ACC play will do just that. And they'll be necessary to make the postseason after a two-year absence anyway.

The out of conference schedule still seems a bit too soft. A lack of Power 5 and/or mid major teams out of state besides Oklahoma is a bit disappointing from a strength of schedule and fan interest point of view. Not counting last season's opening weekend slate that featured national champion Vanderbilt, TCU, and Fullerton, the Hoos' schedule had Villanova (280 RPI - bad), Seton Hall (183 RPI - small improvement to current schedule), and Connecticut (29 RPI - excellent) from the mid major and/or Power 5 realm. Connecticut, who travelled to UVA and lost, won the American Conference's automatic berth while coming one win shy of winning the Oklahoma City Regional.

The series against Bucknell and Dartmouth, accounting for six games before ACC play, is where I have the most heartburn. The Hoos could have made upgrades there while still all but guaranteeing wins without doing a lot of self-inflicted damage to the RPI. As it stands, they might be better off not even playing those games but for the experience of getting on the field.

You certainly could have attempted to find a way to substitute either Cornell or UMASS Lowell for a better regional team as well. The South and Mid Atlantic are chock full of D1 baseball teams (there are 299 across the country) that would have had equidistant travel, or less, when compared to these teams while still affording the ability to practically purchase wins when considering the relative talent between UVA and an improved opponent. 

The Hoos' scheduling philosophy has been pretty constant during the O'Connor era, however. And it almost always works. This is a results-based business and the results speak for themselves prior to the last two seasons (which were still winning seasons).

There will be a lot of pressure to win the Oklahoma series. Are the Hoos capable? Absolutely. UVA has gotten some love as a 2020 sleeper already, in fact.

And while just a preseason scrimmage, rolling over Liberty at their park was another promising sign.

The ACC season will always be tough unless you're one of the few nationally elite teams. The ACC road schedule is rather challenging this year minus Pitt although it's going to take some convincing for fans to pay attention to Boston College this year. I'm not sure if people have begun to take Duke seriously as a program yet either.

Regardless, it's going to be a fun season with a lot of exciting baseball on the horizon.

 

This article contains the tags:

Baseball, 2020, Schedule