No. 1 ranked Virginia travels to Russ Chandler Stadium on April 8-10 to take on the No. 4 ranked Jackets. Although Virginia would probably prefer to have the series at home, the Cavaliers are 7-0 on the road this season.
Virginia will match Tech’s strong pitching staff with a formidable staff of its own. The team’s starters have not lost a game this season and none have an ERA over two.
The team’s ace is Danny Hultzen who has a 1.36 ERA and has only allowed batters to hit .172 against him this season.
Hultzen did not have his best start against Virginia Tech last time out but still ended up with the win. He allowed two runs to score in only six innings pitched, but his offense bailed him out with 18 runs.
Virginia’s second starter will be Tyler Wilson who actually has the lowest win total (four) and highest ERA (1.90) of any of Virginia’s starters who will pitch against Tech this season.
Will Roberts who sports a 0.96 ERA and 6-0 record, actually currently has a better ERA than the ace of the staff, but he will pitch game three for the Cavaliers.
Virginia also has a strong arm at the back of its bullpen in closer Branden Kline. Kline has 11 saves this season and has an ERA of just over one, so if the Cavaliers give him the ball with a lead to protect, Tech’s chances of coming back for the win are not in the team’s favor.
Virginia is a team based around pitching as the team only has four hitters with an average above .300 and the entire team has only five total home runs.
Virginia’s offense can be described as a two-man attack with John Hicks and Steven Proscia leading the charge. One of the two players is leading the team in homers, batting average, RBIs, hits, total bases and at bats. The other is second in all of those categories.
If the Cavaliers are unable to get these two going at the plate, it is going to be a long series for them.
Tech comes into the series against No. 1 Virginia having only lost one conference game all season. The loss came April 2 at Duke, but Tech had managed to win the first 10 ACC games of the season. Tech will need to continue its strong play against conference foes this weekend and will rely on a solid pitching staff to help the team win the series.
Junior Mark Pope will go for the Jackets in game one, and the six-foot-two righty is already off to a solid start this season. Pope is 7-0 this season with a 0.66 ERA in seven starts for the Jackets.
In his last game at Duke, Pope hurled a complete game, only gave up one earned run and struck out seven batters. Pope will need to be dominant against the Cavaliers as they have outscored opponents by 48 runs so far this season.
Junior southpaw Jed Bradley will make his eighth start of the season in game two of the series and will have to have his strikeout pitch working. That has not been a problem thus far for Bradley as he has 59 strikeouts compared to just 14 walks.
Sunday’s game three will feature sophomore pitcher Buck Farmer. Even though Farmer is Tech’s third starter, he has front-line starter statistics as evident by his 2.11 ERA. Farmer struggles with his consistency having given up the most extra base hits of any other Tech player, so that could hurt him in a series against a potent offense.
Tech’s offense will be literally led by leadoff hitter and center fielder freshman Kyle Wren. Wren is leading the team in categories that are indicative of productivity as a leadoff man, with a .419 average and 35 runs.
The middle of Tech’s lineup will feature two powerful hitting lefties in freshman first baseman Daniel Palka and junior third baseman Matt Skole. Both players are leading the team in homers with five, and both are the leading RBI men for the team.
One key player for the Jackets will be freshman catcher Zane Evans who will be asked to call the game from behind home plate on defense and will try to break out of a two-for-13 slump with the bat.