Welcome to the 2020 baseball season Wahoo fans! The Hoos begin their quest for a memorable 2020 season in Pensacola, Florida against the Big 12's Oklahoma Sooners. The three-game series, known as the Wahoos Classic, will take place in Blue Wahoos Stadium. The minor league baseball facility on the Pensacola Bay is home of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, AA affiliate of the Minnesota Twins.
UVA will be the home team for each game of the three games in the Wahoos Classic.
Oklahoma enters the season ranked as high as 16th in the nation per Perfect Game. The Hoos are ranked 25th in the same poll. In the preseason Big 12 rankings, league coaches voted the Sooners fourth. Last season, Oklahoma finished 33-23 overall while going 11-13 in the Big 12. Like UVA, Oklahoma missed the postseason in 2019.
Friday, February 14: 7:00 PM
Saturday, February 15: 5:00 PM
Sunday, February 16: 12:00 PM
Note that all times are Eastern. Pensacola, Florida is in the Central Time Zone so you may see outlets reporting the local game time instead.
Projected Starting Pitchers
Friday - UVA: RHP Griff McGarry vs Oklahoma: RHP Cade Cavalli
Oklahoma sends their ace, junior right hander Cade Cavalli, to the mound to start his second consecutive season opener. During his sophomore season in 2019, Cavalli posted a 5-3 record with a 3.28 in ERA. Cavalli pitched 60.1 innings in 2019 across 12 appearances. Cavalli was the starting pitcher in each of those 12 appearances for the Sooners. He walked 35 while striking out 59. In 2019, batters posted a .238 average against Cavalli.
Cavalli's 2019 season earned him preseason recognition as the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year in D1 Baseball's Big 12 conference preview. He was also recognized as First Team All-Big 12 as a utility player in 2019 due to his work with the bat. Cavalli will give up the two-way player role this season to focus on his pitching.
Cavalli is primarily a three-pitch pitcher. He has a fastball that pops in the mid-90s as well as a slider and changeup that's still developing.
Saturday - UVA: RHP Chesdin Harrington vs Oklahoma: LHP Levi Prater
Game two projects the Sooners to start the junior lefty. In 2019, Prater finished with a 7-4 record and 3.26 ERA. Prater, who was Second Team All-Big 12 as a pitcher in 2019, made 14 starts in 16 appearances. In those 16 appearances, Prater threw 80.0 innings. He gave up 43 walks while striking out 97. Last season, batters hit .211 against Prater.
Prater sits upper 80s to lower 90s with his fastball. He'll do his damage working the zone with excellent command.
Sunday - UVA: RHP Mike Vasil vs Oklahoma: RHP Dane Acker
This will be Acker's first appearance as an Oklahoma Sooner. The junior began his career at Rice before transferring to San Jacinto Junior College in Pasadena, Texas. Last season at San Jacinto, Acker had a 10-0 record and 2.36 ERA. Acker threw 76.1 innings while making 14 starts. He struck out 97 batters in those 76.1 innings. The Arizona Diamondbacks selected him in the 23rd round of the 2019 MLB Draft but Acker elected to enroll in Norman.
The prior season at Rice, Acker went 5-2 with a 4.20 ERA. Across 16 appearances, Acker threw 40.2 innings for the Owls as a freshman. He made just 3 starts for Rice but also collected 2 saves in relief work. In those 40.2 innings, Acker struck out 32. His work as a freshman earned him All-Freshman honors in Conference USA.
Acker's fastball is reported to be in the same range as Prater's, but he may hit as high as 94 MPH on occasion. His main secondary pitchers are a slider and splitfinger.
Friday evening's game should go off without a hitch. Pensacola is forecast to have clear skies all night with no chance of precipitation. Winds should be fairly light with gusts to 10 MPH. Temps will be in the upper 40s for most of the game.
Saturday's weather should be more of the same. Temps will be in the lower 60s at first pitch, dropping to the lower 50s by game's end.
Sunday's game will begin under cloudy skies with temps in the upper 50s. There will be a 50% chance of rain as the game begins. Temps will increase slightly to the lower 60s as will the chance of rain. That will peak at around 60% as the game should be coming to an end. Winds will be consistent with the rest of the weekend.
Unless you're at Blue Wahoos Stadium, it's going to be difficult to watch this series.
First, you'll need to be a Cox Cable subscriber. If you are, check your local listings for both YurView TV (the Virginia or Oklahoma versions) or Cox Sports TV.
YurViewVA and YurViewOK appear to be broadcasting Friday's game live. Cox Sports TV will have it tape delayed but check your local listings. Each outlet will show the Saturday and Sunday games on tape delay. So, check those local listings again.
Those residing in the Charlottesville market will be able to hear the radio broadcast on WINA.
And those outside of WINA's reach can stream the radio broadcast from VirginiaSports.com. Check out the schedule section of the baseball page there for details.
Sooner To Watch
Oklahoma's top returning offensive threat will be 1B Ty Hardman. The junior from California was the only returning Sooner to have batted above .300 last season.
The First Team Academic All-Big 12 member posted a slash line (batting average / on base percentage / slugging percentage) of .306 / .394 / .457. His OPS was .851.
In 219 at bats, Hardman hit 6 homers and drove in 42. He also had 1 triple and 13 doubles. Hardman led the Sooners in hits, doubles, RBI, and total bases. He also tied for the team lead in home runs. Hardman also had the highest number of strike outs on the team with 64.
Over the summer, Hardman played for the Brewster Whitecaps of the Cape Cod League. Hardman was an All Star on the Cape and won the league's annual home run derby.
These neutral site season openers against Power 5 teams are nearly impossible predict.
The Sooners mirror the Wahoos in many regards. They're a team focused on pitching and defense first.
On paper, most would give Oklahoma the edge in pitching due to the Cavalli-Prater duo. Closer Jason Ruffcorn has a reputation for being one of the better stoppers in the Big 12 as well (Second Team All-Big 12 in 2019, led Big 12 with 11 saves). UVA feels good about its pitching as well. And while it doesn't have a reputation like Oklahoma's heading into the season, there's a lot of potential on the UVA staff. The impact of new pitching coach Drew Dickinson is a true wild card.
OU's defense is led by senior shortstop Brandon Zaragoza. He's one of the best defensive shortstops in the nation. But UVA returns a very strong defensive club as well. People probably give OU a slight nod here on paper too. The Sooners return the entire middle of their infield defense from catcher to short and second base. The Hoos will break in a new player at second as Nic Kent slides over to short to replace the departed Tanner Morris.
Oklahoma was not a particularly strong offensive club last season. They're expecting to make a big leap from the plate in 2020 but they'll have to prove it first. I give the Hoos an advantage here.
Honestly, in a season opening series, any outcome has to be on the table: OU sweep, UVA sweep, or a 2 to 1 win for either team.
We know that Oklahoma's first two starters will be tough. What the Hoos get from their pitching likely makes or breaks the series. The walk issue that plagued the 2019 team can't be a problem here if UVA is to win the series.
Everyone is an optimist on opening day. I'm no different.
UVA wins, 2 to 1.