If …

If you graduate from the University of Virginia with a degree in mechanical engineering and a 3.7 GPA … you’ve earned a place on my blog.

If you persevere in the sport you love … walking on as a freshman and working hard day-in and day-out even though the odds are long against you that you will ever get a chance to play and your last at-bats were in the middle of May … you’ve earned a place on my blog.

And, if you go 3-for-4 and hit a decisive 2 RBI single in a do-or-die game of the College World Series, sending your underdog University of Virginia Cavaliers to Game 3 against heavily favored Vanderbilt … you know, you’ve earned a place on my blog.

Here’s to you Thomas Woodruff … 

Thomas Woodruff UVA

© The Baseball Bloggess

“[T]his guy has been as unselfish a team player as you could possibly be for four years. And I really believe that at the most important time you get rewarded for that, and certainly it showed true today. And it worked. We just did enough.” ~ UVa Coach Brian O’Connor

That Thomas Woodruff and the entire team of “Cardiac Cavs” left the Vandy-happy ESPN broadcasters stunned and speechless as the Hoos went on to win 3-0 against “this-team-can’t-lose” Vanderbilt Commodores is simply a bonus.

A tip of the cap to all the Hoos.

I’m hoping for another night of stunned confusion from ESPN.

Because, it’s so nice when ESPN is left with nothing to say.

Game 3. Tonight. 8 p.m. ESPN.

Photo: Davenport Field, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia. 2015 season. © The Baseball Bloggess

OmaHoos 2015

Why do we sing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” when we’re already there?

The answer to this corny old joke is simple. Because we do, and not everything in baseball has to make sense.

The University of Virginia’s very strange season has somehow taken them to the championship of the College World Series this week and that doesn’t really make sense either.

I’ve been calling it improbable. But, then so has everyone else.

(And, by improbable, I don’t mean that they don’t deserve to be in Omaha, only that, had you asked me four weeks ago … well, fortunately, no one did.)

The post-game announcers on ESPN on Saturday night were so unprepared for Virginia’s win over Florida that they had nearly no statistics or background info on UVa ready to air after the Hoo’s win. The best they could come up with was to joke that Vanderbilt is such a prohibitive favorite and the odds are so long against UVa in this week’s championship, that Las Vegas oddsmakers have probably closed the book on the series.

Dear ESPN, If you’re going to tell a baseball joke to fill airtime, why not make it a good one? Like this …

Which takes longer: to run from 1st to 2nd base or to run from 2nd to 3rd base? It takes longer to run from 2nd to 3rd base because there’s a “short stop” in the middle.

Fun Fact: Since the post-season began on May 29, the Hoos are 8-1. They have scored 49 runs over those nine games; 25 of them have been scored in the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings.

Funner Fact: The Hoos have scored the go-ahead runs in the 6th inning or later in all eight wins.

Here’s to the Hoos! They play Game 1 against Vanderbilt tonight in a best-of-three series.  8:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN

Daniel Pinero Ernie Clement

Daniel Pinero, Shortstop & Ernie Clement, 2nd Base

As ESPN was about to cut away following Virginia’s win over Florida on Saturday, their cameras took one last sweep over the Virginia players, huddled around their Coach Brian O’Connor. Just before they cut to commercial you could hear Coach O’Connor tell his team:

“Continue to have fun and enjoy it.”

Matt Thaiss

“We just go out there and do what we have to do. … We know nobody looks at us like a team that should win it all or can win it all. But everyone in our locker room thinks we can.” ~ Matt Thaiss, Catcher

 

ernie clement 2015

Ernie Clement

From Sunday’s Roanoke Times:

Clement was asked what comes to mind when he hears the word ‘Vanderbilt.’ He looked quizzically at the reporter.

‘Are we playing Vanderbilt?’ he said.

The reporter paused to give Clement a chance to reveal he was joking. The lack of words suggested the freshman was not. Why, yes, Ernie, your opponent in the College World Series finals would be Vanderbilt. You know, the team that’s been all over SportsCenter the past few nights? The defending national champions? The baseball powerhouse that UVa met at this same stage last year?

‘Oh, I didn’t even know that,’ he said. ‘I just know we’re there. I can’t wait to play.’

mound11

Ernie Tweet

Photos: Davenport Field, the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA. 2015 Season. © The Baseball Bloggess

 

“Some How. Some Way. Josh Comes In.”

Here are some things The Baseball Bloggess can no longer do.

  • Read the small print on vitamin bottles.
  • This.
  • Stay up past midnight.

One can be remedied with cheap drugstore reading glasses and I have 11 pairs lying around the house in case of a vitamin emergency. Two, I never could do that. (But, I’m touched that for five seconds you thought I could.) Three, well, if your team plays the late game in the College World Series, bedtime can be an inconvenience.

But, that doesn’t mean I can’t get up at 5 a.m. to watch the post-midnight DVR’d parts of last night/this morning’s University of Virginia vs. Florida game.

sleepy kid

I wasn’t the only sleepy one.

Let’s get to it. UVa won, continuing its miracle run of playing much better (much, much, much better) than it did through the regular season.

Since you might not have made it to 2 a.m. either, watch the recap here.

“Some how. Some way.”

Now, rewind to 3:12 and re-watch the 8th inning highlights and the come-backer to UVa closer Josh Sborz. The one that ricocheted off his glove and sent the glove flying. The one that came with no outs and the tying run on third, the go-ahead run on first, and the go-ahead-even-more run at bat.

No outs.

He gets the out. But, still … it’s break-a-sweat time. Because even with that out, the tying run is still on third, the go-ahead run is still on first, and the go-ahead-ahead run is at bat. One out.

Times like these call for a visit to the mound. To settle down your pitcher. To position your infield. To make sure everything is just so. It’s late and every pitch is potentially a “game changer.”

The recap didn’t share the mound visit that followed that Sborz play. But, I will …

Willie Stargell once said, “They don’t say, ‘Work Ball.’ They say ‘Play Ball.’” And, when you’re in the College World Series, it’s a good idea to savor every moment, even when the game’s on the line.

mound1

“Hey, that pitch could have killed you, Josh.”

mound7

“Hey, do you think we’ll have time for a swim when we get back to the hotel?”

mound9

“Hey, have you seen Vanderbilt’s uniforms? It’s like a nine-man prison break.”

mound11

“Hey, can you believe we’re playing in the College World Series?”

Now, that’s playing baseball.

(Spoiler Alert: Sborz gets the next two outs. And, then three more, one-two-three, in the 9th. Hoos win, 1-0.)

Which brings us to this classic scene from Bull Durham. I know you know the one. But, watch it again. I know you want to.

 

Hey, might as well watch the whole movie. You’ve got time. UVa doesn’t play again until Friday.

box score

 

 

“Soon No Off Season”

off season 1

© The Baseball Bloggess

“Pretty soon the ball player will not have rest enough between seasons to get acquainted with his folks.” ~ The Sporting News, November 7, 1912

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Off-Season.”

They call it “The Grind.” That long baseball season. That life ballplayers choose.

For the pros, it begins in February at spring training and, if you’re lucky, it will extend to the far reaches of October.

College ball starts in February and stretches through four months, then summer league teams, and a “bonus” fall season tucked in before the snow falls.

Whatever’s left, that’s your “off-season.”

I thought “off-season” was a baseball term that had worked its way into the rest of the language. But, “off-season” is a business term that was first used in the 1840s.

soon no off season 1912 headline november 7 1912

The Sporting News, November 7, 1912

In 1912, The Sporting News complained that Charles Comiskey, President and Owner of the Chicago White Sox, was running his players ragged by shortening the off-season and putting his team on a train to California in the middle of February to begin spring training, forcing his players into exhibition games along the way, stopping at any place where a pick-up game might put extra “coin” into the owner’s pocket.

We don’t lay fallow much. There’s not much off-season for anybody these days. Apparently, there never was.

off season 2

© The Baseball Bloggess

Photo: Davenport Field, The University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia. The end of the “Fall Ball” season. © The Baseball Bloggess

 

The Friday Night Guy

I’m not sure when college baseball coined the term “Friday Night Guy.”

ESPN suggests it came about in the mid-1990s when the SEC (the always power-packed Southeastern Conference) changed its weekend schedule, moving one of its traditional double-header Saturday games to Friday night.

On that night, in the SEC and in ballparks around the country, the best college pitchers – the aces – pitch.

To be a Friday Night Guy is to be the best pitcher on your team. Facing the other guy’s Friday Night Guy.

When the University of Virginia takes the field in the first game of this year’s College World Series on Saturday afternoon, their Friday Night Guy will take the mound – Sophomore Connor Jones.

Connor Jones UVa 10 18 14

© The Baseball Bloggess

(I know. It’s Saturday. Friday Night Guys get juggled around some once the post-season arrives.)

Jones didn’t start the season as the Friday Night Guy. He was, uh, I guess you’d call him the Saturday Dude for much of this season. The #2 guy.

Saturday Night Guy

Not this Saturday Night Guy.

When UVa’s ace Nathan Kirby went down with a shoulder muscle strain in April, Jones stepped up.

Connor Jones UVa Fall Ball 10 18 14

© The Baseball Bloggess

We call him CoJo.

(And, by “we,” I mean, really just me. But, it’s a good nickname, don’t you think? I spend a lot of time thinking up nicknames for the players and shouting them out, hoping they catch on. They usually don’t. This one, though, is a shame, because it’s pretty good.)

The Hoos will wear their “Connor Camo” jerseys, which they’ve worn whenever CoJo pitches, ever since wearing them for a dominating 5-2 win over heavily favored Miami on April 18. That afternoon Jones went 7 2/3, struck out 11, and gave up two runs, just one earned.

Connor Jones Camo 4 18 15 UVa vs Miami

© The Baseball Bloggess

Camo-Clad Connor Jones pitching in that April 18 win over Miami.

Why the camouflage jerseys? “I thought they looked really cool,” Jones said this week.

(Fun Fact: The camouflage jerseys don’t really camouflage the guys. You can still see them.)

cojo interview

In this short interview, CoJo admits that 1) sometimes he doesn’t know who he is pitching to, he just throws, and 2) he’s a Red Sox fan. A Red Sox fan. How did that happen? The Red Sox could use a CoJo.

Since becoming the Friday Night “Connor Camo” Guy, Jones has started seven games and is 3-0 with a 2.09 ERA. The team is 6-1 in those games.

The University of Virginia Cavaliers face the Arkansas Razorbacks in the College World Series today, Saturday, June 13, at 3:00 p.m. Eastern.

What? You mean you’re not in Omaha? You won’t be at the game?

(Yeh, me neither.)

The game airs on ESPN.

uva game day cws

Photos: Davenport Field, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia © The Baseball Bloggess

 

 

 

It’s All About The Grass

brandon waddell

© The Baseball Bloggess

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Vivid.”

The very first time I went to a baseball game — a real game, with a real diamond and a manicured field — the grass made me blink.

I don’t think I’d ever seen grass so green, so bright, so lush, so … vivid … as the outfield grass around a baseball diamond.

When Little League fields and ad hoc diamonds in public parks start to brown in the heat of summer it always makes me a little sad. Because every player deserves some lush vivid green grass under their cleats.

Photo: University of Virginia Starting Pitcher Brandon Waddell, warming up in left field before his start on Saturday in the NCAA Super Regionals. Virginia defeated the University of Maryland and will advance to the College World Series this weekend.

And, Then This Happened …

The University of Virginia Cavaliers, after a strange and disappointing regular season, have advanced to the NCAA College World Series. Improbably. Unexpectedly. Unbelievably.

They swept the University of Maryland Terrapins in the Super Regionals with wins on Friday and Saturday.

And, I wasn’t ready for the dog pile.

Last year, I was.

See … here’s 2014 …

UVa Dogpile

© The Baseball Bloggess

 The UVa Cavaliers’ dog pile after defeating Maryland in the Super Regionals and advanced to the College World Series in 2014.

This year, once again parked in Section H of left field with all the other displaced season-ticket holders, I wasn’t ready.

fuzzy dog pile

© The Baseball Bloggess (This is copyrighted just to mess with you.)

 You know that auto-focus “idiot button” on your camera? Not idiot proof.

But, really, can you blame me?

Maryland had just come off of a regional series where it knocked off UCLA, the number 1 team in the country. So, no slouch those Terps.

The Hoos took Game 1, beating Maryland on Friday night 5-3.

But, on Saturday, Maryland took a comfy 4-2 lead into the 9th.

All they had to do was breeze through the bottom of the 9th with the same ease they had breezed through every inning since the 1st. The Terps would tie up the series, leaving a deciding game on Sunday.

Then the “breezing” stopped. Lead off walk. Single. Walk. (Pitching Change). Walk. (Run Scores.)

It’s 4-3, no outs. But, to take my camera out at this point … to presume a miracle … is to jinx things. And, I’m no jinxer.

The Hoo’s #9 batter, scrappy freshman Ernie Clement – 1-for-6 over the two games – steps up.

And, this happened.

Ernie! (And, there’s your dog pile!)

Here’s the Game 1 Recap.

game1 box

 

Here’s the Game 2 Recap.

game2 box

The University of Virginia advances to the College World Series.

I finally got my camera out and focused.

Look … I’m on ESPN!

the baseball bloggess takes a selfie

Is this how you take a selfie?

Congratulations, University of Virginia Cavaliers. Hoo’s going back to Omaha? You are!

Brandon Waddell and the Hoos

© The Baseball Bloggess

 Brandon Waddell, Game 2 starter, leads the post-game celebration.

UVa Super Regional Celebration

© The Baseball Bloggess

 

Hoos Greeting Fans

© The Baseball Bloggess

 

connor jones

© The Baseball Bloggess

 That’s pitcher Connor Jones, winner of Game 1, surveying the Davenport Field celebration.

helmet

© The Baseball Bloggess

Ernie Clement’s batting helmet might still be out there.

The College World Series begins Saturday, June 13, 2015.

“It’s All Concentration.”

Justin Novak April 18 2015

Justin Novak, 2B, University of Virginia © The Baseball Bloggess

“The real key to fielding is anticipation and concentration. … Expect the bad hop and be ready for the worst. It’s all concentration.” ~ Legendary Orioles Manager Earl Weaver

Photo: University of Virginia freshman Justin Novak, after scoring a run as a pinch runner in the 8th inning, playing second in the 9th. University of Miami at University of Virginia, April 18, 2015. Davenport Field, Charlottesville, Virginia. © The Baseball Bloggess

uva miami box score