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UVa baseball team back on the winning track

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Posted: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 4:09 pm, Tue Apr 23, 2013.

The crowds. The stellar pitching. The timely hitting. The results. Did Virginia just use a mid-to-late April weekend to foreshadow what’s to come in June?

UVa (35-6, 16-5 ACC) is now the consensus fifth-ranked team in the nation following a series sweep of reigning College World Series participant Florida State.

The Cavaliers did it in front of a Saturday-Sunday combined record attendance of 13,890 at Davenport Field. Their starters allowed all of two runs. Their closer picked up a pair of six-out saves. Their lineup rocked one of the league’s best rotations for 16 runs in three games.

The NCAA Tournament selection show is May 27.

“What we did this weekend is what you have to do to win a Regional,” said Virginia coach Brian O’Connor. “You got to win three games in a row against good teams that have earned it. Florida State’s got a very good team.

“Maybe we can draw something from that, the confidence that we can have a chance to do something special as we move forward.”

The immediate future is 6 p.m., tonight, when UVa hosts Richmond (24-14). The extended calendar, however, can start to warrant serious attention.

Just how far can this bunch go?

Jared King, who went 3 for 4 with a pair of RBI in Sunday’s 5-2 win, was a member of the 2009 and 2011 Cavaliers. Each squad advanced to the College World Series.

The fifth-year senior first baseman was asked to make comparisons.

“I think it’s very similar with coming into the season,” King said. “We had a lot of guys that weren’t really proven. I guess the entire infield other than myself and [catcher Nate Irving] was new. But we knew in the fall that we would have a great core of guys, position player-wise.

“And you got guys like Scott [Silverstein] and Whit [Mayberry] and Artie [Lewicki] coming back and [Kyle] Crockett, obviously that could really anchor that pitching staff. We were extremely confident.

“I’m sure it’s going to draw a lot of comparisons to that ’09 team, but this is a completely different squad.”

The ’09 group was headlined by young talent such as ace freshman pitcher Danny Hultzen and sophomore center fielder Jarrett Parker.

In 2013, the weekend rotation includes a freshman and a sophomore. The everyday lineup features six sophomores and a freshman.

Over the weekend, the entire crew joined to orchestrate the first sweep of FSU in program history just a month after accomplishing the same feat against N.C. State.

“I think it’s a huge accomplishment,” said O’Connor, who has now swept every ACC opponent in his 10 years in Charlottesville. “Florida State has one of the most respected baseball programs in this country. Coach [Mike] Martin is as good of a person that there is in college baseball. They do a great job.

“It just shows that we’ve had some pretty good teams here over the years, and the fact that this is the first time that we’ve won all three of them says something about the quality of opponent that they are and the type of program that they have.”

Florida State (31-9, 13-8) entered the weekend ranked as high as fifth in the country. The Seminoles had yet to lose back-to-back games all season.

UVa changed that trend with a doubleheader sweep on Saturday.

“That’s awesome,” said Cavalier closer Kyle Crockett, who lowered his ERA to 0.55 and picked up two more saves against the Noles. “It’s a great team, so any time we can go out there and win two out of three, it’s great.

“But to get the sweep, it’s a big boost for our team and I think we needed that going forward.”

Forward as in Omaha-bound?

“We’re literally just taking it series by series, game by game,” said sophomore third baseman/pitcher Nick Howard. “It’s really cliché, but that’s what we’re going to have to do.”

Virginia’s next ACC series is this weekend at Virginia Tech (24-17, 9-12).

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