Baseball Preview: Virginia Cavaliers

ECU Baseball starts its season tomorrow, Feb. 15, as the team hosts the University of Virginia.

Valentine's Day is officially here, which can only mean one thing: ECU Baseball is only a day away from kicking off its 2013 season. The Pirates play host to the No. 25 University of Virginia Cavaliers in a three-game series this weekend, with games on Friday (first pitch- 3 p.m.), Saturday (FP- 2 p.m.) and Sunday (FP- 1 p.m.) in Clark-LeClair Stadium.

Virginia enters the season being ranked by several of the nation's top polls, including a No.25 ranking in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll (tied with Louisville). The Cavaliers were ranked No. 30 in the NCAA poll (ECU- No. 41) and No. 35 in the Collegiate Baseball Poll (ECU- No. 37). Based off of these rankings, this weekend series should contain some of the best action collegiate baseball has to offer.

An interesting bit of news from this Virginia team is that true freshman LHP Brandon Waddell is the Cavaliers' opening day starter on the mound. Waddell is the first freshman to start on opening day since Dave Sammons in 1986.

The starting rotation for UVA rounds out with senior RHP Scott Silverstein (last season: 2-5, 4.46 ERA) and sophomore RHP Nick Howard (3-0, 2.81 ERA), who could also start at third base.

Virginia finished last season with a 39-19-1 record after making its ninth-straight NCAA postseason appearance. Fifth-year senior Jared King, a first baseman, leads the Cavaliers.

King finished the 2012 season with 81 straight starts dating back to 2011 and provides UVA with a force at the plate. He recorded 15 multi-hit and 11 multi-RBI games in 2012, with 41 runs, 12 doubles, five triples, four home runs and 13 stolen bases.

King is the only returning starting infielder for Virginia, as the other three starters from 2012 left for the MLB. The Cavaliers return all three outfielders and a few experienced pitchers, highlighted by Silverstein and the bullpen's Kyle Crockett (5-2, 2.25 ERA).

ECU Head Coach Billy Godwin announced this weekend's starting pitchers earlier this week. On opening day, the Pirates will go with sophomore righty Jeff Hoffman (3-2, 3.67 ERA), followed by Junior College transfer Ryan Williams on Saturday and senior Andy Smithmyer (5-2, 1.92 ERA) on Sunday.

Hoffman made 19 appearances last season for ECU, including 10 starts, and pitched 73.2 innings as a freshman.

The Pirates will lean on Drew Reynolds and Jay Cannon to add some firepower to their lineup. Reynolds finished 2012 with a .330 batting average with 24 RBIs and three home runs. Cannon was right behind with a .308 average, 23 RBIs and two home runs. Also look for Jack Reinhiemer (.294, 22 RBIs and 2 HRs), Chase McDonald (.283 and 4 HRs), and Phillip Clark (.269 and 19 RBIs) to lead ECU's offensive attack.

As Valentine's Day winds down tonight don't expect to see these two teams and their players worrying about any big dates ...too much. The real date they have marked on their calendar is the day that follows. Rejoice Pirate Nation, ECU baseball is finally here.

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