Cavalier Corner

April 2017

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APRIL 2017 ◆ 23 first 19 games of the 2013 season when a ball deflected off a rope under the batting cage, smashed into his face and resulted in four fractures. He missed the first eight games of the 2015 season with a knee injury, plus another contest after stopping a groundball with his face during batting practice. Then, last season, he blew out his right elbow on Feb. 28, which forced him to un- dergo Tommy John surgery. "This past year with Tommy John, I took it in stride," Coman said. "Injuries come — that's baseball. You can sulk and feel bad for yourself or have it motivate you to work harder and have a positive attitude. "When injuries happen you have to take it as well as you can. I'm not going to sulk ev- ery day. You have to show up with a smile, and I think it's had a positive impact on people." That attitude also helped Coman deal with hamstring injury that sidelined him from mid to late March this season. The way he has comported himself has had a positive impact on his coach. "One of Robbie's strengths is he's a men- tally tough young man," O'Connor said. "He's had some setbacks. That being said, he's had an unbelievable career and is a tremendous leader. "He's handled it well and now has an opportunity to be a leader on this year's ballclub." One aspect of Coman's game that jumps off the proverbial stat sheet is the minimal times he's struck out. Through games of April 2, Coman only has whiffed 41 times in 479 career plate appearances. "I remember my freshman year in high school I had a lot of strikeouts when I moved up to the varsity," Coman said. "I might have been in over my head but that helped me learn in terms of how to face pitchers. "Once I got here I learned we take pride in not striking out and putting the ball in play. We have 19 more walks than strikeouts [through mid-March] as an offensive unit. That's a rare stat. I think it's important to put the ball in play and force the defense to make plays." While Coman spends some time at first base, he also plays behind the plate, his most important role. "As a catcher he understands what pitch- ers are trying to do especially in terms of expanding the strike zone," O'Connor said. "He has a very advanced approach and has had that for some time." While the Virginia coaches call pitches, Coman has a knack for communicating with his pitchers so he doesn't set up inside for a fastball and winds up trying to block a split- ter in the dirt. "I got along with pitchers as soon as I got here," Coman said. "It was more communi- cating with pitching coach Karl Kuhn. He handles the pitching staff, and we have to be able to communicate with him and learn the signs. Then, you can focus on the other stuff. "This year with a lot of younger guys I try to settle them down. When they get a couple runners on base the heart rate goes up and makes the situation real tense. You remind them to relax and make quality pitches." One of the pitchers Coman handles is Haseley, who is coming off a season during which he was a third-team All-American as a utility player, was one of three finalists for the John Olerud Two-Way Player Award, and was named to the watch lists for the Golden Spikes and National Pitcher of the Year awards. A preseason All-American, Haseley picked up where he left off. Though Virginia's first 29 games he was leading the team with a .398 batting average and eight homers, plus was second with 25 RBI. On the mound, Haseley was 4-1 with a 3.43 ERA in seven starts. In addition, Haseley is the answer to a trivia question — he's the first everyday player for Virginia who's an outfielder and a pitcher. "He was recruited to be an outfielder," O'Connor said. "The latter part of his first year we needed his services on the mound, so he started pitching more and more. I knew he could handle that because of the way he played in high school [The First Academy in Orlando, Fla.]. "He had experienced a high level of baseball in high school. He has a competi- tive spirit about him that told you he could handle this." That Haseley has been able to handle a bat is beyond reproach. "I think he's physically stronger and he's more mature like Robbie," O'Connor said. "Adam's been in the lineup every day, and he has an understanding of what he needs to do to be consistent. He's had all these- at-bats, so he's bound to be better this year than in previous years. "But that comes from maturity." Because of his versatility, Haseley finds himself trapped between the proverbial rock and a hard place. "Personally, I consider myself to be a position player," he said. "I would prefer to be a position player most because I enjoy hitting. That's something I've been intrigued about, and playing every game is something I pride myself on. "I do like pitching, but I grew up as a position player." Haseley credits Kuhn with his ability to be a top-notch pitcher. "From a baseball standpoint, Coach Kuhn has opened my eyes regarding how baseball is played at a high level," he said. "In high school, it's who can throw the hardest. I didn't know about strategy. "When I'm effective I get ahead by throwing strikes. I'm not going to blow away batters [as of late March, Haseley only had 91 career strikeouts in 141 2 ⁄3 innings]. I think I'm a pretty smart pitcher, and the experience I've had enables me to put the ball where I want to. "If you have command and control you can pitch." Considering O'Connor once was the pitching coach at Notre Dame, he has full appreciation of what it takes to be success- ful on the mound if you don't possess a Clayton Kershaw-like fastball. "He overpowers you with his ability to spot his pitches," O'Connor said. "You see his competitive spirit as a position player, and it shows when he pitches. He's not go- ing to wow you with his stuff but with his ability to produce results. "His ability to put the ball where he needs to is important for him to be effective, and he does a really good job of it." ◆ Through 29 games, Haseley was excelling at both the plate (team-best .398 batting average with eight home runs and 25 RBI) and on the mound (4-1 record with a 3.43 ERA) for UVA. PHOTO BY MATT RILEY/COURTESY UVA

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