UVA begins its March midweek slate with a visit from another in state opponent. This week, Richmond makes the quick trip up 64 West for a Tuesday afternoon game. Virginia is coming off a weekend sweep over Dartmouth. Richmond will represent a step up in competition but arrives having lost five in a row.
Giving the game a little extra meaning will be the presence of former Wahoo catcher Drew Blakely in a Spiders uniform. Blakely is a redshirt junior at Richmond. He's started 10 of 11 games for Richmond on the year. It would be a surprise if we don't see him in action at The Dish.
Virginia (9-3, 0-0)
Richmond (2-9, 0-0)
Tuesday, March 3 - 3:00 PM
Richmond is another legacy series for the Hoos as the programs first met during UVA's first season of baseball in 1889. The Hoos hold a convincing advantage in the series with a record of 86-59-2. UVA has won 14 of the 15 meetings under Coach O'Connor.
That includes a 5-1 win over Richmond during the 2019 season. At the plate, Tanner Morris, Cameron Simmons, and Nic Kent led the way. On the mound, former Hoo Grant Donahue made the biggest impact in the UVA victory.
Richmond's last win in the series was in 2018. The Spiders beat UVA 11-3 in Charlottesville. Richmond jumped out to an 11-0 lead in that contest before the Hoos scored 2 runs in the bottom of the 7th. UVA threw six pitchers in that game including current Wahoos Kyle Whitten and Evan Sperling. Like the 2019 matchup, right hander Grant Donahue was the most effective UVA pitcher as he was the only one to not give up a run.
Projected Starting Pitchers
UVA: RHP Matthew Wyatt (0-0, 7.20 ERA, 5.0 IP, 5 walks, 5 strikeouts)
For the second consecutive game, the Hoos will start a member of its 2019 recruiting class on the mound. Wyatt, a 6-4 right hander, is making his first career start. This will be his 5th appearance overall.
During the preseason, it was evident that Coach O'Connor thought highly of Wyatt. He mentioned the first year as a potential starting pitcher later in his career. But his thinking at the time was that Wyatt's best usage in 2020 would be as a relief pitcher. It remains to be seen if this is a permanent switch or a one-time thing, but evidently the future is now.
Prior to this start, Wyatt's last appearance was in relief during the series finale against Bucknell. He threw 2.0 innings of scoreless, hitless baseball. The Bison drew 2 walks and struck out 2 times against Wyatt.
Richmond: LHP Jeremy Neff (0-2, 6.14 ERA, 7.1 IP, 3 walks, 12 strikeouts)
The Spiders will counter with a freshman of their own in the LHP from West Palm Beach, Florida.
This will be Neff's third career appearance as well as his third career start. He's started each of Richmond's last two midweek games. His first career start and appearance came on February 18 against James Madison. His most recent appearance and start was on February 25 against Coppin State. Richmond lost each game. For his efforts, Neff was credited with a loss in each.
Last time out against Coppin State, Neff lasted 5.1 innings. He gave up 3 runs (all earned) and 4 hits. Neff walked 2 and stuck out 9 against the Eagles.
Opponents are batting .313 against Neff on the season.
Neff's twin brother Jason is a utility player for Richmond as well.
There's a chance of rain all day in Charlottesville beginning at 6:00 AM. It peaks at 30% at 9:00 AM and begins to drop again throughout the day. At first pitch, cloudy skies are to be expected with a 15% chance of precipitation.
The temperature should be in the mid-60s with winds between 10 and 15 MPH.
The wind and temps should remain steady throughout the game. But the chance of rain begins to increase again, peaking at 25% between 5:00 and 7:00 PM.
This one will be a streaming only affair.
Live video streaming is available through ACC Network Xtra. If you have the ACC Network available through your provider, you can watch ACC Network Xtra via your ESPN streaming platform of choice.
Spiders To Watch
Virginia fans will want to go out of their way to recognize Richmond catcher Drew Blakely. The former Hoo will most likely start at catcher for the Spiders. On the season, Blakely is batting .250 in 36 at bats. His slash line is .250 / .348 / .361. Blakely's stat line is highlighted by 11 RBI, 1 double, and 1 homer.
Besides the former Wahoo on Richmond's roster, junior Dominic Toso looks dangerous with the bat. The transfer from Bucknell was 2nd Team All-Patriot League as a freshman at Bucknell. He also earned Freshman All American honors from Collegiate Baseball. As a sophomore at Bucknell, Toso led the team in hits (51) and multi-hit games (15). His 14 doubles were good for fourth in the Patriot League.
Toso was eligible to play this season at Richmond without having to sit out a season. He's currently tied for the team lead in RBI (11) with Blakely. He also leads the Spiders in homers with 3. His 12 hits are tied for tops on the team with several others as well. The third baseman's slash line is currently .261 / .277 / .478.
Richmond began their season at highly ranked Georgia. Despite being swept by the Bulldogs, the Spiders lost games one and three by only one run each. It was a promising start despite the result. Surprisingly, things have never taken off for Richmond as they've only won two of their last eight including losing five in a row.
The Spiders typically have a solid team in the Atlantic 10. A10 coaches voted Richmond 4th in the 13-team league in their preseason poll.
For whatever reason, things have not clicked for Richmond this season.
The biggest x-factors in this game will be UVA's pitching staff avoiding free runners and the ability to hit Richmond's freshman lefty.
Wyatt's 5 walks given up in 5.0 innings pitched puts the free pass issue squarely on the radar. With this being his first career start, the nerves and adrenaline will be flowing. He'll need to control both while trusting his stuff and defense. The Hoos want to avoid falling behind big early like they did in 2018.
Neff's numbers aren't great, but any longtime UVA fan will tell you that the Hoos can struggle with unknown lefties. UVA already fell victim to one this year in VMI freshman lefty Trey Morgan. At Neff's size, he probably isn't the soft tosser that the diminutive Morgan was, but it's something to watch regardless. It would be advisable to jump Neff early and stamp out his confidence before he can get into a groove.
My biggest concern in this game is Wyatt's first inning or two of work. If he can get through those clean, the Hoos should pick up their sixth consecutive win without a lot of drama. If Wyatt struggles in the starting role, the coaching staff should look to cut their losses early before this becomes a protracted battle.
Given Richmond's struggles to date, I'm not expecting a lot of drama here. The UVA offense will remain hot even if they have to do most of their damage against the Richmond bullpen.
UVA wins its sixth in a row!