Cavalier Corner

June 2018

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JUNE 2018 25 The injuries started in early February, when third-year outfielder Cameron Sim- mons — who batted .352 with nine homers and 52 RBI in 2017 — was lost for the season because of a left shoulder ailment. Then, in early March, preseason All-Amer- ican Jake McCarthy suffered a wrist injury that sidelined him for 34 games. The third- year outfielder hit .338 and had 27 stolen bases last year, and was batting .314 with eight stolen bases through 13 contests this year before getting hurt. Others who missed time included fourth- year catcher Caleb Knight (undisclosed in- jury), third-year right-hander Evan Sperling (forearm strain), third-year reliever Chesdin Harrington (elbow) and second-year right- hander Noah Murdock (recovering from Tommy John surgery). Among the bright spots in a season marred by injuries was the remarkable play of third-year infielder Andy Weber. The 6-1, 190-pounder arrived at UVA as part of a heralded recruiting class and after his first two years in Charlottesville, the Ohio native had made progress. During his first two seasons with the Cav- aliers, he batted .275 with two home runs and 54 RBI over 85 games (75 starts). No one, perhaps including Weber himself and O'Connor, expected him to hit his way onto the All-ACC first team. Weber's team- high .344 batting average was second best in the league as of May 30 (six ACC schools were still alive in the NCAA Tournament), while his team-best 19 doubles were tied for second in the conference. In addition, his team-high 49 RBI were the 11th most in the ACC this season. He also led the Cavaliers in runs scored (42), hits (72), triples (three) and home runs (five). Not only did he reach base safely in 32 straight games earlier in the season and put together two hit streaks of 10 or more games, he also went hitless in only eight contests and finished the regular season with home runs in each of his last two games. "Andy Weber has had a huge impact on this year's team," O'Connor said in early May. "To be as productive as Andy has been this year, it's been a huge boost for us on a team where some of his teammates have been injured. "He's needed to carry the ball for this team and hit in the middle of the order." Weber credits his success to his time in the program, spending the last two summers at Thunder Bay, Ontario, in the Northwoods League and gaining more confidence. "The biggest thing is just having the expe- rience of playing here and practicing every day with your teammates and coaches," We- ber said. "I think that and then going away for the summer and playing a bunch of games against other collegiate athletes up there. It's a learning curve that one day just clicks for you. "I also learned a lot from older players that played here, like Pavin Smith and Adam Haseley." Weber said his increased production hap- pened in large part because he grew more comfortable. "I don't think anything's changed," he said. "My job is still to just have a quality at-bat every time I'm going up there and do whatever the situation is telling you to do." The injuries that UVA sustained put pres- sure on O'Connor to find solutions and heightened the expectations on those still in the lineup. "When you have as many injuries as we did, it definitely gave some guys some new opportunities," Weber explained. "It's a 'next man up' mentality." His coach thinks Weber gets credit, too, for his big season. "Andy Weber's been a guy that has worked extremely hard. He's dedicated, he believes in himself, and through the experience of his first couple of years he's progressively gotten better," O'Connor said. "I think he had a re- ally good season for us last year in his second year here. He gained confidence from that. "Now he is in a leadership role and some- body who is in the middle of the lineup and counted on to produce. He's certainly emerged as one of the really, really great players in this league. "I think he's improved a lot defensively as a second baseman," O'Connor added. "He's made some incredible plays behind the bag at second base and gotten an out. His range is really, really impressive. "He's done a nice job from a leadership standpoint with having a rookie on the other side of the bag in Tanner Morris." Weber certainly is mindful of what playing alongside future pros at Virginia did for him as a player and what it could mean for his even- tual dream of playing professional baseball. "For me, it was humbling," he said. "My freshman year we had three first rounders in our lineup between Matt Thaiss, Pavin Smith and Adam Haseley. We had other guys, too, like Ernie Clement and Robbie Coman. "I was just trying to learn as much as I could from my teammates. When I was given the opportunity to play, I just tried to do what I could to help the team. I was very blessed to get a lot of help from my team- mates and coaches along the way." BRIGHT SPOT During An Injury-Plagued Season For UVA, Second Baseman Andy Weber Blossomed Into An All-ACC Performer Weber recorded team highs in batting average (.344), runs scored (42), hits (72), doubles (19), triples (three), home runs (five) and RBI (49) during his third-year campaign. PHOTO BY MATT RILEY/COURTESY UVA "He's certainly emerged as one of the really, really great players in this league." HEAD COACH BRIAN O'CONNOR ON WEBER BY BRAD FRANKLIN T HE NATURE of athletics is that sometimes you are at full strength and then sometimes, unfortunately, you're not. And for head coach Brian O'Connor and the Virginia baseball team this season, the lat- ter was the situation.

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