College World Series Disappointment Doesn’t Overshadow Season’s Success For Virginia


OMAHA—Virginia this season had one of the nation’s most dangerous offenses. Led by projected top-10 pick Kyle Teel and the program’s all-time home run king Jake Gelof, the Cavaliers led the nation in hits (716) and doubles (172) and ranked eighth in scoring (9.0 runs per game).

But in the College World Series, the Cavilers’ offense never really got going. Virginia lost its opener to Florida, 6-5, on a walk off and then lost to TCU in an elimination game, 4-3. The Cavaliers combined for 13 hits in the two losses.

While the way Virginia’s season ended was disappointing, its overall year was not. The Cavaliers went 50-15, marking their first 50-win season since 2014, and made it to Omaha for the second time in three years. They hosted regionals for the first time since 2016 and super regionals for the first time since 2015.

“We just fell a little bit short in Omaha,” coach Brian O’Connor said. “Two one-run losses certainly hurts. I feel for our guys because they’ve had a terrific year. That said, we didn’t win. And that’s our goal is to win here in Omaha and give us a chance to win a national championship. And we certainly fell short of that.

“We just couldn’t get that one more big hit that we needed to win here in Omaha. And sometimes, all the time that’s what it comes down to, that big clutch hit or that clutch pitch. And we just didn’t get enough of that this weekend.

“That said, it doesn’t diminish what this team accomplished, to have 50 wins and be playing here in Omaha again, speaks to what they’re made of and their talent and the type of program that we have. We’ll regroup and look to build and be back here as soon as we possibly can.”

Virginia has retooled over the last few years to once again become one of the ACC’s top programs after missing the NCAA Tournament in consecutive seasons in 2018-19. A big part of that renaissance has been Gelof and Teel. The two arrived on campus in the fall of 2020 and helped the Cavaliers advance to the CWS. Teel was a first-team Freshman All-American and while Gelof took a little longer to grow into his role, he was named to the All-Columbia Regional Team.

This season, as juniors, Gelof and Teel hit back-to-back in the lineup in the three and four holes in every game since Feb. 26. That combination served Virginia very well all spring, as Teel hit .407/.475/.655 with 25 doubles and 13 home runs and Gelof hit .321/.427/.710 with 23 doubles and 23 home runs.

Teel was named ACC player of the year, becoming the first Cavalier to earn the honor since Sean Doolittle in 2006. He set the program’s single-season doubles record and hit .343/.433/.547 for his career. Gelof set the program’s career (48) and single-season home run record and hit .329/.429/.683 for his career.

The dynamic duo had a tough showing in Omaha, combining to go 0-for-14. But their impact on the program will be long remembered in Charlottesville.

“The careers that those two guys had are right up there with some of the best that we’ve had in my tenure here,” O’Connor said. “Jake Gelof has broken so many offensive records, home run records, RBI records. We wouldn’t be sitting here today without him. And Kyle Teel was just a really, really special, talented player.

“The results didn’t show in these two games the impact that those two young men have had in our program and their entire careers, but especially this year. And, certainly, they will be missed.”

As much as Virginia thrived offensively in 2023, its success also comes back to how well it reloaded its pitching staff in the offseason. The Cavaliers lost the bulk of their innings from their 2022 team, including lefthander Nate Savino, who was drafted in the third round.

Virginia turned to new starters Connelly Early, Brian Edgington and Nick Parker, all of whom arrived via the transfer portal. Lefthander Jake Berry grew into a bullpen ace as a junior and a solid freshman class, led by Jack O’Connor, provided key contributions. The result was a pitching staff that ranked fourth in the nation in ERA (3.81).

Now, Virginia faces the challenge of replacing many of this year’s key contributors. Teel projects to be the program’s highest drafted player since Pavin Smith and Adam Haseley went seventh and eighth overall in 2017. Gelof should also hear his name called early on the first day of the draft. Edington and Parker were in their final year of eligibility and Berry and Early likely will begin their professional careers.

The 2024 Cavaliers will look very differently. They will still have strong star power, however. Shortstop Griff O’Ferrall (.396/.453/.495, 16 SB) and slugger Ethan Anderson (.375/.469/.649, 15 HR) will lead the offense. Jack O’Connor (6-3, 3.86) will likely lead the rotation, while righthander Jay Woolfolk (2-1, 2.91, 9 SV), who is also competing to be Virginia’s starting quarterback, will again pitch in a key role.

Virginia will need new players to step up, however. O’Connor said the Cavaliers’ younger players did a good job of that last summer, which helped the five sophomores who became regulars in the starting lineup to take on those roles. Now, O’Connor is looking for this year’s freshmen to make a similar jump.

“That’s how you continue to sustain a high-level program,” he said.

Over the last 20 years in Charlottesville, O’Connor has built the Cavaliers into a high-level program with Omaha expectations. This year was Virginia’s sixth trip to the CWS under O’Connor and the first time it has gone 0-2.

As the offseason begins in Charlottesville, Virginia is in a strong spot. It must replace two all-timers and a bevy of talent throughout the roster. But after reloading a year ago, the Cavaliers can be confident of their ability to do it again and make another run at Omaha.

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