Perseverance pays off for UVa baseball team's seniors - Cavalier Insider: Baseball

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Perseverance pays off for UVa baseball team's seniors

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Posted: Thursday, May 9, 2013 9:00 pm | Updated: 1:41 am, Fri May 10, 2013.

Scott Silverstein and Jared King got a new roommate this year. Like them, his main activity was baseball and winning was a favorite hobby.

Reed Gragnani moved in. Virginia had its leadership council — and owners of three unique stories — under one roof.

“It’s been good,” Silverstein said. “We all have the same situation in a way. I mean, they’re position players and I’m a pitcher, but we all knew the expectations of this.”

“This” being the tradition-laden UVa program.

The No. 7 Cavaliers’ final home regular season series of 2013 starts at 6 p.m., tonight, when Duke comes to Davenport Field. Shortly before Sunday’s 1 p.m. series finale, six Wahoo players will be honored for Senior Day.

In two weeks, Virginia (39-8, 17-7 ACC) will likely return to Charlottesville to host an NCAA Regional, giving Silverstein, King and Gragnani another opportunity to pad what has been a collective outstanding senior year.

No. 1, they’ve been healthy. No. 2, they’ve been successful.

“Coming into this year, we all knew this was it,” Silverstein said. “Obviously, this is our last year. I don’t know if we used it as motivation, but we wanted to go out knowing that we left everything on the line. We didn’t want any regrets.

“We wanted to do the best we could.”

Silverstein, who has had two surgeries on his left shoulder since leaving St. John’s College High School in 2008, had never won more than two games in a season at Virginia. This year, he’s 7-1 with a 3.32 ERA as the Saturday starter.

King, who missed all of 2010 because of shoulder surgery, had never had more than 12 doubles in a season. The first baseman’s got 13 while batting .298 and driving in 31 runs.

Gragnani, whose career has been littered with injuries, had never hit a home run at the college level. The second baseman’s got three to go with 40 RBI.

“You’re so proud of guys that persevere through difficult times, which those individuals have, and go out on a high note,” said UVa coach Brian O’Connor. “Certainly, they’re having great seasons. You want them to have fond memories of their time here. And what better way than to finish strong first, as a team, and then, individually.

“They’ve each had really great years.”

Silverstein and King, both fifth-years, have been a part of 234 wins, including two trips to the College World Series. Gragnani, a true senior, has been a part of 185 victories.

Except the Richmond native didn’t exactly see action in all of them.

Gragnani suffered a hip flexor injury in his freshman season, wasn’t 100 percent his sophomore year because of a sprained ankle and tore his left quad as a junior.

His 45 starts in 2013 are a career-best.

“I couldn’t ask for more,” Gragnani said. “This is what I came here to do. I came here to play infield and contribute to the team as best as I could. For me to make it through this year so far, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

The team couldn’t either.

This bunch has six sophomores in the everyday lineup and routinely uses five freshmen pitchers.

Leaning on experience has been key.

“They’re unbelievable,” said Brandon Waddell, the rookie Friday stater. “All the older guys, they’re great leaders. They step up and teach you everything that you need.

“They’re always there to help you, regardless of what it is — getting a ride to practice, stuff like that. They’re really welcoming, really glad to help. So that’s a big, big thing.”

That approach was developed months ago by a trio of roommates.

“It’s sort of like you just want to do right so everybody has an example to follow,” Silverstein said. “Less of being the guy that yells all the time and more of the guy that just provides a good example of what the program is all about.”

Series notes

Duke is 25-23 and 9-15 in the ACC. The Blue Devils fell to Liberty, 4-3, on Sunday. UVa swept its two-game season series with the Flames. ... Duke is coached by former Appalachian State skipper Chris Pollard. Under Pollard, the Mountaineers beat the Cavaliers in last season’s Charlottesville Regional. ... Friday’s game will be the first for the Wahoos after a nine-day final exam break. Virginia is 15-12 since 2004 in the weekend following such break. ... The list of Sunday Senior Day honorees includes Silverstein, King, Gragnani, Rob Amaro, Colin Harrington, Whit Mayberry and manager Taylor Myers. All seven will receive their degrees next Sunday (May 19).

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