Cavalier Challenge

Virginia head coach Brian O'Connor said he's not sure he will ever again see a team pitch quite like his did last weekend in Irvine, Calif. He hopes for a repeat, however, in Oxford this weekend.

"To give up two runs in any Regional anywhere is really remarkable," said O'Connor, whose team beat San Diego State 5-1, and followed that up with 5-0 and 4-1 wins over Cal-Irvine. It was really something, and I don't know if it will ever happen again."

Obviously he's hopeful that it will – against Ole Miss.

"We had a great overall weekend last weekend at Irvine," O'Conner said, his team now 45-12-1. "We played some of our best baseball of the season. Now we're in the position this weekend that you work for all year long, to have a chance to win a series to go to Omaha. I can tell you that our coaches and players are very much looking forward to this series."

The Cavaliers have been to the NCAA Tournament the past six years but never to a Super Regional. RHP Andrew Carraway (7-1, 4.30 ERA) said the Cavaliers hope this is their time to advance. He will start game three if there is a game three.

"To be honest, the last few years we've had great teams that have done great things," Carraway said. "We've played in the ACC Championship a couple of times. We've hosted Regionals. The pressure might have been on us to win a Regional. Now we've done that. All I believe there is right now is excitement. It was awesome finally winning that Regional. Getting to play in a Super Regional in a place like this is really exciting right now. We just need to keep playing the brand of baseball we've been playing."

Carraway said the Cavaliers are confident after going 3-0 in games to win the Irvine Regional.

"We were obviously a little bit surprised to see that," he said of the distance factor from Virginia to California to play the tournament. "We were expecting to maybe be closer to home. We'd found out we weren't going to host a Regional, so we were just waiting to see what happened.

But we have an awful lot of competitors on this team," Carraway continued. "Guys who want that challenge, can anticipate that and are ready for it. We'd just come off some tough challenges in the ACC Tournament and played well. Seeing that (distance) and seeing that we were going to play (San Diego State star ace pitcher Stephen) Strasburg in the first game, and then play UC-Irvine, a team that was No. 1 in the polls, we saw that challenge and were pretty excited for it."

Carraway said the road to Omaha is not always paved with home games.

"There are a lot of ways to get to Omaha," he said. "No matter what route you're in, you go against some great teams. No matter when or where you play good teams, you're eventually going to face them. We knew we could handle those challenges, and that was a really big confidence builder for our team. It was an awesome feeling."

The Cavaliers have won eight games in a row. But they started the season 19-0. So like Ole Miss (43-18), they've been a consistent ballclub.

"Since we started the season 19-0, I feel like we've played pretty much the same all year," said rightfielder Dan Grovatt. "I think that's why we've experienced success, because we've played on that even keel all year. I think the biggest difference (lately) is we've come up with that big hit or that big pitch in big situations now more than we were a few losses ago. I think that's why we're seeing success now."

O'Connor said so far the trip has been terrific.

"We're very excited to be here in Oxford," said the former assistant at Notre Dame when current LSU head coach Paul Mainieri led the Fighting Irish. "The hospitality since we landed in Tupelo has been tremendous. Beautiful place. Beautiful stadium. We're very, very excited and fortunate to be here."

And hoping to advance, even though the Cavaliers have never been to a Super Regional before.

"Whether you title it a weekend series or a Super Regional, it's baseball. It's all the same," O'Connor said. "I don't think our team will look at it any differently. I think our group is a confident group, a tough competitive group that will go out and play the way they've played all year."


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