Cavalier Corner

April 2012

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not his style. Back in high school, when professional scouts B were already drooling over the 6-3 flamethrower from Frederick, Md., the Red Sox drafted him and tried to throw big bucks his way. By most accounts, he was offered seven figures to sign. An urban legend has floated around that a scout from Boston left a signed check worth $2 million on the Kline's kitchen table. All Branden had to do was go to the bank, cash it and he was set. BY SHANE METTLEN RANDEN KLINE'S BASEBALL career has never been about taking the easy way out. The University of Virginia right-handed pitcher has had plenty of opportunities to do just that, but it's just lineup, and we all have complete trust in his decision." Whether to use Kline as a starter or out of the bullpen has been the question O'Connor has had to answer ever since the third-year arrived on The Grounds. Kline was used as a mid-week starter much of his first year, dominating what was often inferior compe- tition. Last season, O'Connor made him the closer, a role he filled well enough to become an All-Ameri- can. He finished the season with 18 saves, which tied both the school and ACC single-season records. This year, he's at the front of the weekend rotation, you ask, but there's no doubt Kline turned down riches to become part of something bigger than him- self at Virginia, where he helped the Cavaliers ad- vance to the 2011 College World Series as the team's closer. Maybe it was easy for Kline to turn down the OPEN & SHUT Whether or not that story is true depends on who money. After all, he's one cool, confident guy who figured to just be putting his professional career on hold while at UVa. The big leagues and even bigger paydays would all still be ahead of him. Kline's nerves of steel were on display last year as the Cavs' closer, where he pitched his way out of some impossible-seeming jams. After getting his first College World Series save ever last June against California, Kline was his typical cool self. "For me, it was great to get that first one out of the way," he told reporters. "I wasn't really nervous, but just to get out there on the mound and feel what it's like to be in Omaha and at the College World Series was tremendous. It was a great way to start the tourna- ment, and hopefully it can continue. "I am just doing whatever I can right now to help the team win. If that's me being used at the middle of the game or at the end game, as long as the team wins, it does not matter. "I talked to Coach [Brian O'Connor] at the begin- ning of the year and I never thought about being one of the best pitchers on this team, but I knew that Coach had an idea of what he wanted for his starting Kline, who tied the school and ACC single-season records with 18 saves in 2011, was one of five starting pitchers selected to the National Col- legiate Baseball Writers Association preseason All-America team. PHOTO BY MATT RILEY/COURTESY UVA filling the role of staff ace. College baseball coaches and writers across the country anticipated that Kline would have little trouble with that transition, picking him as a preseason All-American. All-American Pitcher Branden Kline Has Emerged As UVa's Ace There are big shoes to fill for Kline. The Virginia staff lost four pitchers who all advanced to the profes- sional ranks, including No. 2 overall draft pick Danny Hultzen and Will Roberts, who threw a perfect game against George Washington. This year's Virginia squad is not exactly the veteran star-laden team that many had penciled into the Col- lege World Series bracket from day one last year. Lots of young players are being asked to fill larger roles this season, and the Cavs are picked to finish third in the ACC Coastal Division. That means Virginia is counting on a solid outing from Kline every time the star hurler takes the mound. "He is the most veteran, most experienced and successful pitcher that we have returning from last year's club," O'Connor said prior to the start of the season. "This happens to be the year that we have a lot of new players that are not only first-years, but also players that have been in the program but are playing new roles." The latter of which, of course, includes Kline, but don't think for a second any of it is a bother to him. "The only difference between the last two years was probably that I threw a lot more pitches this year than I did last year," Kline told reporters. "Last year, I was simply going in for one inning, or a little longer than that. "This year, I want to go out and treat it as if every inning is the ninth inning where I'm trying to keep my team in the ballgame." In his first 2012 appearance at Davenport Field, Kline got off to a bit of a shaky start against Mon- mouth, but settled down as he scattered six hits and picked up the win. After so many saves last year, the victory was likely just the first of many in his new role. ◆ APRIL 2012 ◆ 25

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