June 8, 2010 [LINK / comment]
U.Va. advances in NCAA tourney
After getting momentarily sidetracked by St. John's University at the NCAA regional tournament on Sunday, the University of Virginia Cavaliers won the rematch on Monday evening, thereby qualifying for the "super regionals." (I was at the game in Charlottesville on Saturday night; see below.) In the deciding game of the series, U.Va. beat St. John's by a score of 5 to 3. In contrast to the slugfest games on Friday and Saturday, the Cavaliers eked out runs one at a time in classic "small ball" fashion. St. John's scored twice in the sixth inning, coming to within one run of the host team, but that was all they could manage. See virginiasports.com.
In the game I saw on Saturday evening, the Cavaliers walloped the Mississippi ("Ole Miss") Rebels by a score of 13-7, after having beat the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams 15-4 the day before. By the end of the fourth inning, Virginia was way ahead of Ole Miss, 11-3. It was a "sellout" crowd of 4,801 -- exactly 24 less than capacity -- but I did notice a few empty seats in the visitors' section. I asked the usher if I could buy an upgraded ticket, but he said the reserved seats were all sold. I wonder... I must say, I was greatly impressed by the fine appearance of the Cavaliers' home. (See below.)
Of special interest in that game was starting pitcher Danny Hultzen, a sophomore (!) who earned his tenth win of the season even though he struggled with control. He gave up three runs in both the third and fifth innings, but he hung in there and kept his cool until the end of the sixth inning. The Washington Post had a feature story on Hultzen the same day, noting his superb ERA of 2.43 and being named as ACC pitcher of the year. He graduated from the elite St. Albans high school in Washington just two years ago, and was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks but decided to go to college instead. Smart kid. Once he finishes his baccalaureate at U.Va., presumably in 2012, he will be subject to the draft process once again.
Virginia will now face Oklahoma at the super regionals next weekend, at home in Charlottesville. That round is a best-of-three series, one of eight being held around the country, and the winning teams from each series will go to the College World Series in Omaha, beginning June 19. It will be the final year for historic Rosenblatt Stadium, which I visited briefly last August. We'll soon find out if Virginia lives up to its new-found high expectations and makes it to the CWS like they did last year, when they were still the underdogs.
Davenport Field: nice!
Inspired by the success of the U.Va. baseball team, I created a new page for Davenport Field. That page has three diagram versions: 1995, 2002 (when the current stadium was built), and 2010. Attendance was so high this spring that they had to build two new bleacher sections, [in addition to] the bleacher sections that had been built in recent years. Capacity is now 4,825, more than twice what it was when construction was completed in 2002. All of the additional seats are temporary bleachers, however, and they really need to upgrade some of those sections to permanent status, probably the seats extending down along the first base side.
D-Day and baseball
Two days ago was the 66th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of France by American, British, and Canadian soldiers at the beaches of Normandy. The town of Bedford, Virginia suffered the highest number of fatalities relative to population, which is why the National D-Day Memorial is located there. If you have time, which you should, take a few minutes to read about Frank Draper and Elmer Wright -- "The Boys of Bedford, Virginia" at the Baseball in Wartime blog. How many other brave lads would have gone on to play in the major leagues if they had not sacrificed their lives for their country and the cause of freedom?
It's "S-Day" in D.C.
In about two hours, the media feeding frenzy over Stephen Strasburg will reach a peak, as the vaunted ace pitches his first game for the Washington Nationals this evening. MASN will have an extra half-hour pre-game show, and ESPN will have live coverage as well. In today's Washington Post, Thomas Boswell says that this is the moment that long-suffering Washington baseball fans finally get to relax and enjoy. I tend to be skeptical about rising stars, but the more I read about him and see of him, Strasburg indeed seems like the Real Thing. He shows exceptional modesty and maturity for his age, the qualities of poise that differentiate merely good pitchers from truly great ones. Now we'll find out if he can take the pressure of being a big league pitcher. And the Pittsburgh Pirates will find out whether they can score any runs off him!
Nationals draft Harper
But that's not all! Yesterday, the Nationals used their #1 pick to draft slugger Bryce Harper, of the College of Southern Nevada. As with Stephen Strasburg, who generated a frenzy of speculation last summer, there is a big question about whether the Nationals can successfully get a contract with him. Nats' general manager Mike Rizzo sounds determined to get the job done. Harper is primarily a catcher, but has played in the outfield as well this year. That's unusual, but Yogi Berra did the same thing way back when. See MLB.com. Yes, sports fans, the future of baseball in Our Nation's Capital looks bright indeed!