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2023 College Top 25 Preview: No. 19 Virginia

Last season: 39-19 (17-13 ACC); lost in regionals
Final ranking: Not ranked
Coach (record at school): Brian O’Connor (789-338-2, 19 seasons)

The good news: The Cavaliers bring back two potential day one draft selections in catcher Kyle Teel and third baseman Jake Gelof, as well as Freshman All-American outfielder Casey Saucke, sparkplug shortstop Griff O’Ferrall and other contributors including Justin Rubin, Colin Tuft and Ethan Anderson. Teel is one of the premier catchers in college baseball, with above-average athleticism and a strong arm from behind the plate. Offensively, he has a mature approach and consistently moves the baseball with sound swing decisions and feel for the barrel. Gelof is coming off of a monster 2022 season that saw him hit 15 doubles and 21 home runs, while also posting a .377 batting average. He displays power to all fields and while replicating his production from 2022 will be a tough task, Gelof should once again have one of the more impressive offensive outputs in college baseball. Saucke had an impressive first season, hitting .360 along with 16 doubles and seven home runs. O’Ferrall hit .308 as an everyday starter during his true freshman season and will be a strong table setter atop the Cavaliers’ lineup. Towering 6-foot-10 lefthander pitcher Jake Berry will lead the way for the starting rotation after a strong summer in the Cape League where he had a 2.66 ERA with 20 strikeouts to nine walks. He will not overwhelm hitters from a velocity standpoint, but with his stature he creates a lot of extension that makes his 89-91 mph fastball play up. Two transfers will make up the rest of Brian O’Connor’s rotation in former Army lefthander Connelly Early and former Coastal Carolina righthander Nick Parker. Early was the Patriot League pitcher of the year in 2022 after posting a 3.26 ERA with 88 strikeouts in 85.2 innings. Parker is coming off a respectable season of his own where he had a 4.45 ERA with 81 strikeouts in 85 innings.

The bad news: Losing three key players and veteran leaders in Chris Newell, Devin Ortiz and Alex Tappen, as well as arms like Nate Savino, Matt Wyatt and Brandon Neeck, leaves a gash on each side of the baseball. Newell, Tappen and Ortiz were major contributors offensively and made up the middle of the order of last year’s team. Savino was one of the best arms in the conference in 2022 and was the club’s Friday night starter before being drafted in the third round by the Diamondbacks. Ortiz’s departure will be tough to replace as he hit .286 with 12 doubles and seven home runs while also notching a 2.86 ERA on the mound with a 37-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 26 innings. Tappen was the team’s second leading hitter behind Gelof, hitting .366 with 28 extra-base hits. Neeck and Wyatt made up the back end of the Cavlaliers’ bullpen.

Player to know: Ethan O’Donnell, OF.

A Northwestern transfer, O’Donnell burst onto the scene in Evanston last spring and established himself as one of the best players in the Big 10. He hit .320 with 24 doubles and 10 home runs. He carried that production over to the Cape Cod League, where he hit .314 with four doubles in 51 at-bats. O’Donnell has gap-to-gap power and will slot in at the top of the lineup this spring while manning center field.

Path to Omaha: Brian O’Connor is no stranger to the College World Series—in his 19 years as head coach, Virginia has reached Omaha five times, while winning the national championship in 2015 and finishing as the national runner-up in 2014. A lot of the team’s success will depend on the production O’Connor and his staff get out of the transfer portal and whether or not sophomores Anderson, Rubin and Tuft are able to carry over their success from last season.

College Hotsheet Copy (1)

College Hot Sheet: 20 College Baseball Standouts From The Past Week (3/21/23)

Two premier SEC pitchers lead this week's Hot Sheet.

CKyle TeelJr..276.402.439221645
1BEthan AndersonSo..302.403.497159539
2BJustin RubinSo..333.426.44887113
3BJake GelofJr..377.477.7642122181
SSGriff O'FerrallSo..308.406.366227239
OFHarrison DidawickFr.HS—Chesapeake, Va.
OFEthan O'DonnellJr.Transfer—Northwestern
OFCasey SauckeSo..360.438.591186746
DHColif TuftSo..292.410.37596115
SPJake BerryJr.534.7956690
SPConnelly EarlyJr.Transfer—Army
SPNick ParkerR-Sr.Transfer—Coastal Carolina
RPBrian EdgingtonR-Sr.Transfer—Elon
RPJay WoolfolkSo.302.8738550

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