Cavalier Corner

February 2019

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cavalier sports FEBRUARY 2019 11 behind the scenes Baseball Coach Brian O'Connor this month in uva history Feb. 27, 1960 Fourth-year BOB MORTELL set the school record with 25 rebounds against Washington & Lee in an 86-59 victory. Mortell had three games that season with at least 22 rebounds — meaning between Jan. 6 and Feb. 27 Mortell posted a trio of games that still rank among the top four single- game rebounding performances in program an- nals (he stands first, second and tied for fourth on the single-game list). Mortell and the legendary Ralph Sampson in 1980 share the school record with three contests of 20 rebounds or more in the same campaign, and the duo represent two of just five in program history to ever finish a game with 21 or more. Mortell also still holds the school record with a 14.6 season-long rebounding average in his final campaign, and Sampson is the only Wahoo to ever pull down more caroms than Mortell's 350 in that season. Feb. 8, 2012 Fifth-year forward Mike Scott tied Jeff Jones (1982 versus UAB) and Kenny Turner (1989 versus Sam- ford) for the best perfect shooting performance in UVA history, when he went 9 of 9 against Wake Forest. Scott's was the best perfect shooting performance by a Cavalier in an ACC game, and he finished with a game-high 19 points in the 68-44 victory despite play- ing just 26 minutes. The third-team All-American Scott finished his final campaign in Charlottesville leading the ACC in field goal percentage (56.3). PHOTO COURTESY UVA W hen UVA baseball head coach Brian O'Connor arrived in Charlottesville in 2004, one of his top goals for the Cavaliers was to make the NCAA Tournament every year. For the 14 seasons following his arrival, they did. Last season, however, marked the first time in O'Connor's tenure his club was not a part of the NCAA Tournament. "Obviously, that's a goal of ours every year and I think there's a lot of things that contribute to something like that happen- ing," O'Connor said. While panic was not the order of the day, an in-depth evaluation was. "I think it's important not to panic and say, 'We're doing something wrong,'" O'Connor explained. "Our approach to handling our team last year was no different than the 14 years prior when we played in the NCAA Tournament." That said, O'Connor added, whether it's a business taking a year-end review of how it performed or a college baseball team, suc- cessful organizations self-evaluate what and how they are doing. "I took this summer and looked at every- thing, and part of it is an honest evaluation of why we didn't make the NCAA Tourna- ment last year," he said. Something we won't hear from O'Connor are excuses, but the reality is that Virginia spent most of 2018 short-handed. Injuries to All-America caliber third-year outfielders Cameron Simmons and Jake Mc- Carthy were a huge blow to the Virginia of- fense. Simmons hit .352 with nine home runs and 52 RBI in 2017. McCarthy hit at a .338 clip, collected 36 RBI and stole 27 bases in 29 attempts. McCarthy and Simmons com- bined to play in just 13 games last spring. In 2016, Virginia lost three highly ranked recruits, two pitchers and a third base- man, to the MLB Draft — the only time in O'Connor's tenure that has happened. All three would have been entering their second- year campaign at Virginia — a time when col- legiate baseball players come into their own. Despite the excellent talent the Virginia coaching staff always recruits, it's difficult to overcome that experience and loss of production. Entering his 16th season at the helm, O'Connor expects his club to be back in typical UVA baseball form for the upcom- ing season because the culture and approach of his program are a proven success. "We have a tremendous foundation here in our program, what our program's about, the type of players we recruit and how we work, how we develop," O'Connor said. "That's not going to change. I believe in it, 100 percent. The players believe in it 100 percent, so you just have to roll with the difficult times at times." If fall camp is an indication of being on track, the head coach sees lots of promising signs from his team. "I think from a position player standpoint, I think we have some really good athletes and some really good versatility," O'Connor said. "The work ethic this fall has been one of the best we've had in our time here, I think the guys that were here last year, there's something inside of them that wants to get back on top. "I love the fire from which they've worked this year." — Greg Waters O'Connor led UVA to 14 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances from 2004-17, mak- ing it one of 15 programs in college baseball history to accomplish the feat. PHOTO BY MATT RILEY/COURTESY UVA

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