The Hoos get an Ivy League visitor this weekend as Dartmouth ventures south from New Hampshire. Virginia (6-3) will host the Dartmouth Big Green (2-2) in a three game series. This will be the Hoos' last weekend series prior to ACC play beginning next weekend with the NC State Wolfpack.
The Hoos will aim to win each game in the series. UVA will also want to use the weekend to solidify its lineup and weekend rotation heading into the conference opener. Could there be a surprise to two along the way?
This will be a conventional Friday-Saturday-Sunday series.
Friday, February 28: 3:00 PM
Saturday, February 29: 1:00 PM
Sunday, March 1: Noon
This weekend marks the renewal of a series that dates back to 1891.
Virginia and Dartmouth have played seventeen games in their history since the schools first squared off in the nineteenth century. The Hoos currently lead the series 12 to 5.
Only two of the seventeen contests have been played in the last 70 years, however.
Those games happened in March 2010 when the #1 ranked Hoos hosted Dartmouth. UVA won both games easily, 14-3 and 11-5.
In the last meeting, the 11-5 contest, the Hoos were led by Tyler Wilson and Branden Kline on the mound. On offense, big games were supplied by Phil Gosselin, Keith Werman, Steven Proscia, Jarrett Parker, Kenny Swab, and Stephen Bruno.
What's most notable about that game is that Dartmouth's starting pitcher was current Chicago Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks. UVA got to Hendricks, then a sophomore, for 8 hits and 5 runs (all earned) in just 4.0 innings of work.
Projected Starting Pitchers
Friday - UVA: RHP Griff McGarry (2-0, 1.80 ERA, 10.0 IP, 7 walks, 14 strikeouts) vs Dartmouth: RHP Austen Michel (0-1, 1.35 ERA, 6.2 IP, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts)
Michel is a senior RHP from South Hamilton, Massachusetts. The veteran has 31 appearances in his career but this will be only his 5th career start.
Michel did start Dartmouth's season opener last Friday in Port Charlotte, Florida against Indiana State. The Sycamores won the game 1 to 0 via a 2 out, solo homer off of Michel in the bottom of the 7th. Other than the one pitch, Michel pitched an outstanding game. He threw 6.2 innings giving up just three hits. Michel walked 1 and struck out 5 as well. Indiana State batters hit just .130 against him in the 6.2 innings of work.
Michel missed almost all of his junior season in 2019 with an injury. He made just 2 appearances in relief, recording 0.2 innings of work. He compiled an ERA of 54.00 in those 0.2 innings.
But in 2018, Michel was Second Team All-Ivy League as a reliever. During that campaign, he pitched 45.1 innings in 17 appearances (15 relief, 2 starts). He ended the year with a 3-2 record and 3.38 ERA. Michel also recorded 7 saves. He struck out 35 and walked just 7 batters. Opponents hit .249 against Michel in 2018.
Saturday - UVA: RHP Mike Vasil (1-0, 1.80 ERA, 10.0 IP, 3 walks, 14 strikeouts) vs Dartmouth: RHP Nathan Skinner (0-0, 2.25 ERA, 4.0 IP, 0 walks, 6 strikeouts)
The sophomore from Jacksonville started Dartmouth's second game of the season - the first game of a doubleheader against Chicago State on February 22. Like the Big Green's game against Indiana State, the two games against Chicago State were also played in Port Charlotte, Florida.
Dartmouth won the game Skinner started 6 to 2 even though he did not factor into the decision. In his season debut, Skinner tossed 4.0 innings of 4 hit baseball. He surrendered 1 run (earned), walked none, and struck out 6. Chicago State batters posted an average of .267 against Skinner in those 4.0 innings.
During his freshman season in 2019, Skinner made 11 appearances (8 starts, 3 relief). He finished the season with a 3-6 record and 5.96 ERA over 51.1 innings. Skinner walked 17 and struck out 26 as a freshman. He also hit 9 batters. Opponents posted a .288 batting average against Skinner in 2019.
Skinner's freshman numbers were good for second on the team in wins, strikeouts, and ERA. He was also third in starts and innings pitched.
Sunday - UVA: LHP Nate Savino (0-0, 6.75 ERA, 2.2 IP, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts) OR RHP Chesdin Harrington (0-2, 8.53 ERA, 6.1 IP, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts) vs Dartmouth - RHP Justin Murray (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 7.0 IP, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts)
The sophomore from Charlotte is a two-way player for the Big Green. When he isn't pitching for the Big Green, Murray also plays a little 3B and 2B. On the mound, Murray started the fourth and final game of Dartmouth's weekend set in Port Charlotte. He got the start against Omaha in a game won by Dartmouth 8 to 1.
Against the Mavericks from Omaha, Murray gave Dartmouth its second quality start of the weekend. In 7.0 innings, Murray surrendered no runs and only 3 hits. He only walked 2 and struck out 6 while picking up the win. He was named Ivy League Pitcher of the Week for his efforts.
As a freshman in 2019, Murray made 10 appearances for Dartmouth (9 starts, 1 relief). He compiled a 2-5 record and 5.93 ERA in 54.2 innings of work. In those 54.2 innings, Murray walked 11 and struck out 32. He also hit 6 batters. Opponents posted a .305 batting average against Murray in 2019.
Murray's work as a freshman earned him team rookie of the year honors. Both Murray's ERA and strikeout totals were team leading numbers. He was also second in the Ivy League with the fewest walks per 9 innings at 1.81.
Friday's game will be like most February games in Charlottesville - upper 40s dropping throughout the game, overcast, and winds between 10 and 15 mph. There's a slight chance of precipitation at 15% but that seems pretty unlikely.
Saturday will be sunny and cold. At first pitch, expect temperatures in the lower 40s. Winds will be around 10 mph. And there's no chance of precipitation in the forecast.
Sunday's forecast is calling for sunny skies and warmer temps. Sunday's high checks in at 55 with no chance of precipitation again. Winds shouldn't be much of a factor at all.
Our good friends at ACC Network Xtra have come through again. All three games will be available on the streaming service for those that have ACC Network access through their provider. As usual, ACC Network Xtra is found via ESPN's streaming platforms.
On Friday and Saturday, Charlottesville locals can hear the game broadcast over the air on WINA. WINA.com will also stream the radio broadcast.
Finally, VirginiaSports.com will also stream the audio broadcast of all three games. You can access that under the schedule section of the baseball page on the site.
Big Green To Watch
Only four games into their season, it's difficult to draw many conclusions about the Dartmouth offense. Most of their top players from last season were seniors, so there's a vacuum waiting to be filled as well.
Junior DH Ubaldo Lopez was named Ivy League Player of the Week for his work in his home state of Florida last week.
Any performance that earns a conference player of the week honor is worthy of attention.
In four games, Lopez led the Big Green in hits (5), batting average (.385 - tops among regulars), doubles (3), total bases (8), slugging (.615), and OPS (1.044 - tops among regulars).
Lopez, who can also play 1B and OF for Dartmouth, was limited to DH duties as he's recovering from an undisclosed injury. The opportunity to focus solely on batting could make Lopez a dangerous opponent this weekend.
The preseason Ivy League media poll picked Dartmouth to finish fifth in the eight team league. That would be an improvement of one spot over their 2019 finish.
Due to the late start of their season, the Big Green are a bit behind the curve when compared to teams that got started a week earlier on February 14. Compounding that, Dartmouth didn't get in any midweek games. One can reasonably expect that they're still working out a few kinks and shaking off some offseason rust.
They had a couple quality performances down in Port Charlotte. Indiana State is a middle of the road team in the Missouri Valley. The 1 to 0 loss there is more than respectable. And Omaha was picked second in the Summit League preseason poll. That was a nice win for Dartmouth. Splitting the two games with Chicago State raises some eyebrows, however. Chicago State was picked to finish dead last in the WAC.
It appears that the strength of the Big Green is found in their starting pitching. I don't expect it to be overwhelming but it should certainly be respectable. Their pitchers are still getting stretched out most likely, so Dartmouth's coach will have to walk a fine line between the marathon of the college baseball season and pushing for an upset win in the event one of their three starters is having an exceptional day.
The Big Green's offense does not appear to be too formidable as they're averaging 3.5 runs per game (7 per in 2 wins, 0 in 2 losses).
After dropping one of four to Bucknell last weekend, the onus will be on UVA to sweep this series. Yes, it's still early in the year but you don't have a lot of rope for nonconference losses to these lower quality weekend series teams. You want to save your handful of nonconference losses to the better midweek opponents on the schedule.
UVA will want to play a crisp series in all phases this weekend as they gear up for conference play. I expect the coaching staff to really drive the players in all facets of the game. Particular attention must be paid to the defense where UVA's fielding percentage of .948 is good for only 250th in D1 due to 17 errors committed.
The expectation is still a sweep and I think that's what we'll get. The bats will prove to be too much for Dartmouth as will the back end of the bullpen and the starting combo of McGarry and Vasil.
UVA wins the series, 3 to 0