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Blog: Lewicki joins weekend rotation

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Posted: Wednesday, May 14, 2014 11:16 am | Updated: 12:44 pm, Wed May 14, 2014.

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After dropping subtle hints over the course of the last month, Virginia coach Brian O'Connor finally made it officially Tuesday night.

Artie Lewicki is joining Nathan Kirby and Brandon Waddell in UVa's weekend rotation.

"Josh Sborz will be in the bullpen," O'Connor said after the No. 1 Cavaliers blitzed VCU, 12-3. "It has zero to do with Josh Sborz and Artie Lewicki, it’s not a competition between the two of them. It’s hard to have pitched better than Josh Sborz pitched on this last Saturday. He left the game after giving up two hits and, I believe, one run.

"But we always do this this time of the year and tweak things a little bit. It has more to do with how you want to line things up for the ACC Tournament and beyond then. This allows us to give Nathan Kirby a full week’s rest and plug Artie into that game one.

"It starts to take shape with what we want to do the next couple weeks.”

There's a couple of things to analyze here before Lewicki starts Thursday at Wake Forest. This will be the final series of the ACC regular season. The Wahoos (42-9, 21-6 ACC) sit one game back of Miami (38-14, 22-5) for the Coastal Division title.

Because of taking a March series in Coral Gables, UVa owns the tie-breaker over the Hurricanes, meaning it just has to win one more game than them this weekend. 

Considering Miami's 25-2 in its last 27 contests, that task is easier said than done. The Canes host North Carolina (31-21, 14-13). 

"The University of Miami is playing as hot as anybody in the entire country," O'Connor said.

But Virginia, according to most polls, remains the best team in the country. 

And it might just get better with the Lewicki move.

The senior right-hander is 4-1 with a 1.62 ERA and he's no stranger to the big stage. 

In 2012, pre-Tommy John surgery, Lewicki threw seven shutout innings to earn the win against No. 1 Florida State in the ACC Tournament. He later took the loss in an NCAA Regional game against Appalachian State

The New Jersey native has strictly been a mid-week ace this season, but his consistency against formidable opponents — see a 2-1 record and 1.61 ERA versus NCAA Regional hopefuls William & Mary, VCU, Old Dominion and Liberty — foreshadowed a chance at moving up in rank.

"I’m really excited for the postseason," Lewicki said after he shut the then-No. 22 Flames down for seven scoreless innings. "Regardless of what role I’m in, I’ll just be happy to be a part of the whole thing.”

The ACC Tournament doesn't begin for another week, but Lewicki's sure to be a part of it. 

On seven day's rest, he'll go against the Demon Deacons. That gives Kirby, who will take his 8-1 record and 1.62 ERA to the hill Friday, his normal amount of rest. Waddell (7-2, 2.75), the normal Sunday starter, gets bumped up a day because of the different schedule. 

As O'Connor alluded to, Sborz (4-3, 2.93) is coming off his most impressive outing in over a month, going a strong six innings against Georgia Tech. 

O'Connor said the sophomore righty will still have a relieving role at Wake and could start one of the league tournament games in Greensboro.

After all, should Virginia advance to Championship Sunday (May 25), it'll be its fourth game in four or five days, depending on when it gets the bye in pool play.

"He factors in to start one of the ACC Tournament games," O'Connor said. "That game that he starts could be Wednesday, could be Thursday, we really don’t know until the schedule comes out.”

The NCAA Tournament begins June 6, a Friday. With Kirby going this Friday, the Cavaliers have lined up their ace to go on the same rest throughout the postseason. 

"If you look at what we've done historically with our pitching," said O'Connor, the 11th-year coach, "this is the weekend, the final regular season weekend, that we've made some changes. Not necessarily who the personnel is and who is starting the games, but when they're starting and try to line them up where you think that they might start in an NCAA Regional and kind of work back from there." 

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