Posted: 12:00 p.m. Thursday, May 30, 2013
By Will Campbell
If you were to ask Coach O'Connor whether he would play a #4 seed that he had never seen before or a team that he had played in the last two years, I am almost positive he would vote for the latter. Getting off to a good start in the tournament is key for a team; especially a young one with many players playing in their first regional. A tone needs to be set and familiarity will certainly help set that tone for the Hoos.
Luckily enough for Oak and Co. they get to face a four seed they played roughly 365 days ago at the Dav. Obviously players change, but Army cannot be so different that last year's game will not help prepare for Friday's opening game.
The Cavaliers and the Black Knights have met six times in the history of the two programs, with the most recent being last year's opening game in the NCAA tournament, and the only time Coach O'Connor has faced West Point. The Cavaliers won that game 9-1 behind strong Branden Kline, Stephen Bruno, and Brandon Downes performances. All time, UVa holds the slight edge over the Black Knights with a 3-2-1 record.
Fun trivia fact for you to talk about while baking in the stands of Davenport Field this weekend: the first meeting between these two came in 1907. The History Dept at UVa doesn't even know who our coach was that year, but the Hoos did sweep UGA in late April! SUCK ON THAT SEC! #goacc They also played other powerhouses such as "Woodberry Forest," "Fishburne School," and the "Herm. Club of Richmond." (Still not sure what "Herm." is)
Anyways, this year Army fought its way into the NCAA tournament by way of winning the Patriot League tournament. They're on a hot streak as well, having won their last eight games, but some of those wins did come against Navy, Holy Cross, and New York Tech. As I detailed in the quick take, their RPI isn't great (201), and their strength of schedule has not exactly prepared them to take on the highly touted Cavaliers (280 out of 298) (Another fun fact: Georgetown has the worst SOS among teams in the power conferences: #239). Further, they were 0-3 against teams ranked in the top 100 of the RPI (0-2 v. Liberty, and 0-1 v. Indiana).
I have no idea who Army will start, but my guess is that they will start Senior Chris Rowley. He started the regional game last year and was 11-0 entering the game. He promptly gave up six runs in six innings. This year he has another impressive 9-3 record in 13 games. He's got a 2.68 ERA thanks in large part to only walking 18 batters and striking out 72 in 90.2 IP. The not so great stat is his .262 batting average against. My take away for Rowley is that he will be around the plate from the beginning which will allow the Hoos to be aggressive from the first pitch. That opponent's batting average also shows me that he makes a lot of mistakes over the plate. Fortunately for us, UVa makes their money on the other team's mistakes. Look for UVa to jump on Rowley early and often like they did last year.
In last year's regional game three Army players recorded multi-hit games; two of those players are still on this team. Sophomores Mark McCants and Alex Jensen are those two, and two of the offensive leaders of this year's Black Knights team. McCants is batting .315 on the year and is the clean up hitting in Army's lineup. He doesn't have any HRs, but does have 23 RBI in only 37 games. More impressive is his 13 Ks in 130 ABs; that's not bad. Jensen is batting just under 300 at .297 to go along with 38 RBI and 3 HRs. He also has a great K/AB ratio (16/185), but he only has seven walks on the season, so he's a bit of a free swinger.
I haven't been able to get confirmation that Brandon Waddell will start tomorrow's game, but that is who I am placing my money on. Waddell has been solid this whole season on Friday's and this Army team shouldn't put too much pressure on the First Year.
We did get confirmation from Kendall Rogers yesterday that SS Brandon Cogswell will not play again this weekend thanks to his still broken finger. I don't know the exact severity of the break, but judging from the media's quotes I have read, I would expect Cogswell to play next weekend should the Hoos advance to the Super-Regionals.
As for Army, I think the Hoos take care of business. Waddell starts and has another great outing in his First Year campaign, while the offense knocks out Chris Rowley by the fourth inning. These are my #hotsprotstakes for Friday's game. How do you see it playing out?