The conference features 10 pitchers nominated for the Roger Clemens watch list for college baseball's pitcher of the year while 11 players have been named to the preseason All-American team.
GoJackets.com will take a look at the top six teams in the league with weekly previews prior to Georgia Tech's February 10th season opener with Georgia Southern. This week we will preview the North Carolina Tar Heels.
VIRGINIA - Coach Brian O'Connor's squad posted a team record 47 victories last year but ended the season with a disappointing post season performance. The Cavaliers entered the ACC tournament as the #3 seed but were eliminated after consecutive losses to NC State and FSU. They then were eliminated by Evansville while hosting an NCAA regional. They enter this season ranked 9th by Baseball America. This is the team's highest preseason ranking.
Infield - As was the case with Clemson and UNC, Virginia returns their entire starting infield. Preseason All-American Sean Doolittle returns at first base. Doolittle hit .322 last year. The Cavaliers will be looking for someone to fill in for him when he's on the mound. Tom Hagan filled that role last season as well as being their DH. Hagan hit .357. David Adams returns at second. He'll team with shortstop Greg Miclat for the Cavaliers double play combination. Miclat was a freshman All-American last year. Jeremy Farrell returns at third and will receive some strong competition from utility infielder David Wingfield who hit .342 last year.
Outfield - The Cavaliers' outfield is led by Brandon Marsh. Marsh led the team in hitting last year with a .380 batting average. He was named to the second team All-ACC team. Brandon Guyer returns as the starting left fielder. Guyer hit .336 last year. Tim Henry and Mike Mitchell will assume their roles as the center fielders from last years squad. Henry and Mitchell were both .300-plus hitters last year while splitting time in center field. Both players could also be the team's DH.
Battery - The Cavaliers' starting rotation includes two players on the preseason watch list for the Clemens award. Sean Doolittle and Jason Thompson will head up the weekend rotation as they did last year. Doolittle compiled an 11-2 record with a 2.38 ERA. Thompson was a second team All-ACC performer as a freshman. He finished the season with a 10-4 record and a 2.60 ERA. The third spot in the weekend rotation should go to Pat McAnaneny. McAnaneny finished with a 5-1 record in 7 starts. The bullpen will once again be led by Casey Lambert. The role of set up man will go to Michael Schwimer who set a team record with 36 appearances last year. Andrew Carraway should be counted on out of the bullpen after making 19 appearances last year. Beau Seubury returns behind the plate. The Cavaliers will rely on Seubury more for his handling of the staff than his hitting.
Losses - Coach O'Connor's squad suffered very few key losses. The two most significant losses are Hagan and Mike Ballard. Hagan's .357 average as Doolittle's caddy and DH will not be easy to replace. Ballard compiled a 9-3 record as their #3 starter last year. Virginia also lost pitcher Shooter Hunt. Hunt transferred to Tulane.
Newcomers - Virginia brings in 10 freshman to the 2007 team. The pitchers in this class will be counted on to contribute more than the everyday players. Ned Davis and Matt Packer should be two of the freshman to make a contribution as mid-week starters. Infielder Tyler Cannon could fill in as a utility infielder. Greg Lamp and Will Campell wil serve as backup catchers.
Outlook - The Cavaliers will enter the 2007 as one of the pre-season favorites along with Clemson and UNC. The success of their season will be determined by how they perfom in the post-season. They will loses many key players off the team after the 2007 season. Because of that, this might be their last chance to make it to Omaha with the current squad. Hitting and their Friday and Saturday starters will be the strong point of the team. They finished second in the ACC last year in hitting with a .322 average. The Cavaliers lack the power that many of the top ACC teams produce. Their leading homerun hitter only had 7 last year. Only Hagan is missing from that group of hitters. Doolittle and Thompson will be as good as any Friday/Saturday starters in the league. The key, as it is with Clemson and UNC, will be the performance of their new starters. The scramble for the top spot, in a very competitive ACC, should find the Cavaliers right in the mix.