This weekend begins ‘a tradition unlike any other.’ But when the Masters in the rearview mirror on Sunday, UVa gets rolling with the post-season for spring sports. And while some will/should/might go smoother than others, all have positioned themselves for the final push. So we got to thinking, if the different UVa sports were players at the Masters on Sunday, how would they finish? Here is a look at the final day leaderboard.

  1. Rowing (-3 F).  The leader in the clubhouse. Of all the Spring sports, the #3-ranked Women’s Rowing team has the best shot at a National Championship this year. The ACC tournament will be a little more exciting this year with newcomer Notre Dame (10th) and Syracuse (16th) to go with mainstay Clemson (17th), but nationally speaking it will be a 3 boat race between UVa, California, and Ohio State.
  2. Men’s Tennis (-2 thru 17). Sure it hasn’t been smooth sailing like the last 6 years and the early exit in the ITA Semis was a bit unexpected. Shoot, even 20th-ranked Clemson push #5 UVa to a 4-3 decision and almost the first ACC loss in 5 years. But the Hoos broke through last year and if they can get to semis again, anything can happen.
  3. Women’s Tennis (-1 thru 16).  I have really enjoyed watching the 4th-ranked Women’s Tennis team slowly work their way up the rankings over the last few years. This year’s team has the best shot at an ACC title and besting the Sweet 16 NCAA finish from 2012 and 2013. The difference between their male counterparts is that they have Duke (1st , Won 5-2) and UNC (3rd , Lost 5-2) ahead of them nationally, but will surely see them in the ACCs as well.
  4. Baseball (E thru 16). Yes, UVa is ranked 2nd nationally and the ACC is not as strong as it used to be, but there are some things working against them at this moment. First, they still have problems scoring runs. Yes they just put 9 up against JMU, but the Dukes allow 8.3 runs per game. Case in point: They only allowed 2 runs at Pitt in a 3 game series, yet only went 2-1 and let Miami move within 1 game of the Coastal Division. Also, the schedule gets significantly harder with Clemson, UNC, FSU, GT, and upstart WF left. The ACC tournament is a crapshoot, but if the Hoos have trouble batting, they won’t get out of the Super Regionals again.
  5. Men’s Golf (E thru 16). The story on the golf course this week was the 10th-ranked Men’s Golf team posted a -45 under at the Jim West Intercollegiate and 29-stroke victory over Iowa State. Now granted that there were no other ranked teams in the field, that was still darn impressive. Also as impressive has been the fact the Hoos have finished no worse than 4th in any tournament. GT is still the best in the ACC, but if they can get through to the NCAA finals, they might have a shot.
  6. Men’s Lacrosse (+1 thru 10). I’m not saying this season has been another wash for the #11 Men’s Lax team, but 8-4 overall and an 1-3 ACC mark is very disappointing. And they are about to play ‘Amen Corner’ hoping they can come out on the other side in contention. Virginia plays Duke this weekend, a team that the Hoos just can beat, then after the late season gut in Bellarmine, they will play in the ACC Showcase game against likely Syracuse. If you didn’t know the Showcase game is for the teams who finished #5 and #6 in the ACC and missed the tournament. The Cavs are on the cusp of an NCAA Tournament bid, but they will need to finish 2-1 to have a shot.
  7. Women’s Lacrosse (+2 thru 10). About the same write up as the Men, but just with a longer path.
  8. Women’s Golf (+4 F). It has been a very down year for the Women’s Golf team. The 4th in the Florida State Match-Up was the best finish of the year. I don’t think that the extended post-season is in the cards for the Hoos.
  9. M&W Track and Field (+5 F). If you are not named Florida State, you’re not going to win the ACC this year. The Hoos might put a half-dozen in the NCAAs, but a final ranking is most likely out of the question.
  10. Softball (CUT). I know it takes a little while to turn around a program, but a 6-32 mark and 1-16 in the ACC is downright bad. They don’t even get to see the weekend.

This is usually the time of year we have been knee deep in the Spring Sports, mainly, of recent, baseball. With the Cavs playing lights out for the good part of the last decade, it usually is front and back page news right now. But a very impressed and unprecedented basketball season has mostly turned our attention to John Paul Jones Arena. But now with the Winter Sports in the rear view, we get back to the one team living up to expectations: baseball.

While it is not uncommon to see the Virginia Baseball team start a season in the Top 3 in all major polls and have a 25-4 record, it is how this team has gotten, and stayed, that high that has been a bit of a paradox. Let’s hit some of the highlights if you are just getting into the baseball season.

The Good

1.  Pitching. After a down season that left a lot to desire on the mound, Brian O’Connor looks like he has found a great rotation. Virginia’s team ERA is a full point lower than last season (2.11 vs 3.12), and ranks 6th among all NCAA teams. If the Cavs finishes on that pace, they will rank 2nd all time in UVa history, even better than the great pitching teams of 2007 and 2011. Leading the way are the 2nd year trio of weekend starters Nathan Kirby (5-1, 1.24 ERA), Josh Sborz (3-1, 2.78 ERA), and Brandon Waddell (3-1, 3.76 ERA). But what has set apart the Hoos is the insanely strong middle and late relief. Lambeth Field favorite David Rosenberger has a 0.48 ERA through 18.2 innings, and rookies Connor Jones (4-0, 0.88) and Alec Bettinger (3-0, 0.95) have lived up to the hype. Even the two ‘veterans’, Whit Mayberry (3-1, 2.66) and Nick Howard (1.86 ERA, 8 Saves) have proven solid at the back end. Virginia will have plenty of arms available when the schedule gets more difficult.

2. Defense, Defense, Defense. What had started as a shaky start to the year, and seen the Hoos become a rock solid fielding team, sporting a .986 Fielding Percentage and good enough for 2nd in the nation, and T-3rd in total errors with 15 on the year. Again, if the Hoos continue on this pace, they will freak the fielding percentage record of .978 set in 2011, which would be a very impressive, since every BOC since 2004 is in the Virginia Top-10 record book. Solidifying the infield with Cogswell, La Prise, and 1st year Canadian Daniel Pinero went through some early growing pains, but the rotation seems to have settled down now.

3. RPI. Virginia has always benefited from having a strong RPI, and this season is no different. Virginia is sporting the 6th best RPI in the nation and is 4-2 against the Top 50 and 9-2 against the Top 100. The losses to Duke & VMI didn’t help, but the losses to Kentucky and Miami were not bad, and have had some solid wins over Top 100 teams, 4 of which were on the road (UNCW, W&M, Miami twice).

The Bad

1. Hitting. At the beginning of the year, Virginia was pegged to be one of the best hitting teams in America. One pontificator even went as far to say the Hoos could become one if not the best hitting team ever in college baseball. Well, Virginia has not lived up to that hype, not yet. After a hot 10-0 win over George Washington Wednesday, the Hoos will land somewhere around 65th in the nation, up from 82nd, with their BA at .287. Last season, Virginia hit .312, were one of the Top 10 teams all season, and returned all but 2 of their major rotation players.  Irving’s .284 BA had the lowest of the 10 consistent starters last season. This year only 6 players are doing better, and one of them is on the DL. Which leads to the 2nd issue…

2. Hoos on the Base path. Virginia has been getting on base, 29th in the country with .391 ob%, but when you seen such a disparity between OBS (29), Runs (T-53), and BA (65), you know you are leaving men on base. And they are leaving men on base in ACC play. The Hoos couldn’t push across more than 3 runs a game against Duke and did the same for 2 games against BC, both teams with mid 100 RPIs.

3. Man Down. Hoos always seem to have to deal with 1 huge production player going down for an extended period of time each year. This year it was Derek Fisher, who only appeared in 14 games, but has a .333 average and 7 RBI. It is expected that he will be back in time for the FSU series at the end of the month, but it is still a hole the Hoos have had to fill.

The Ugly

1. The ACC. Boy, has it been a rough one for the conference. In the most recent past, the ACC had been the best or 2nd best conference without hesitation. This year they are 4th in RPI and only have 3 ranked teams. THREE. Granted FSU and UVa occupy 2 of the top 3 slots, and Clemson has been solid, but no one saw GT, NC State, and UNC just not get out of the gate strong at all. For UVa, that means that they won’t get the massive gauntlet they are used to ending the season. They do get Clemson at home and FSU away to save the RPI, but UNC and GT are at home, with only Pitt and Wake away remaining. This will be a tough year for the Hoos to hide a few losses and still stay in the top 8 for SR consideration.

The Verdict

Virginia has been playing much better of late thanks to a strong showing down in Miami after the first game. They will have a strong shot to come into the Clemson series next weekend on a 12-game winning streak. Wrap up that series and the UNC one the week after and the Hoos should be able to walk into strong National Seed contention no mater what happens at FSU. You would have to think the pitching and batting will normalize, but I don’t think they will be too far off from what both have done in the first half of the year.

Virginia early enrollee Andrew Brown, a 5-star defensive tackle who was the top-rated interior lineman and No. 11 overall player on the 247Sports composite, has sustained a turf toe injury and will be sidelined for the rest of spring camp.

Cavs Journal tweeted the report from head coach Mike London:

Brown and fellow 5-star defender Quin Blanding, the top-ranked safety in the class, both played high school football in Virginia—Brown at Oscar Smith, Blanding at Bayside—and made the atypical decision to stay in-state with the Cavs and not the Virginia Tech Hokies.

Blanding was the No. 6 overall player in the class, but did not enroll early. He will instead join the team in the summer.

Although the top-ranked player from Virginia, 5-star defensive end Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge), committed to Alabama over the Cavs and the Hokies, the 2013 class was a seminal one for London and his staff in terms of recruiting kids from in-state.

Among the other notable Virginia commits are 4-star athlete Jamil Kamara (Bishop Sullivan), 4-star offensive guard Steven Moss (Chancellor) and top-rated prep school quarterback Corwin Cutler (Ocean Lakes).

Brown is expected to step into the lineup and give UVA a formidable presence at defensive tackle as soon as next season—if not by the end of fall camp, then not long after. Turf toe injuries are pesky, but it shouldn't affect Brown's status at the end of the summer.

He is still the most physically impressive front-four player on the roster and, barring continued poor health, he will not be kept off the field for long.

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