Morris says Cavaliers are as good as ever

Virginia, the opening opponent for the Ole Miss Rebels in the College World Series, has been one of the most consistent and winningest baseball programs for the last decade. Ever since Brian O’Conner took over the Cavaliers in 2004, he has failed to win 40 or more games in a season only once.

And in 2008, the year before the Cavaliers first made a trip to Omaha, Nebraska, O’Conner won 39 games and took part in the NCAA regionals.

Ole Miss is no stranger to playing the Cavaliers in the postseason. Long-time Rebel fans know very well that the Cavaliers came back from being down a game to win the 2009 Oxford Super Regional. Virginia then defeated the Rebels 13-7 in the 2010 Charlottesville (Virginia) regional.
Some of the same reasons the Cavaliers won those matchups will be on display again Sunday night when the two schools meet at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha.

According to Jim Morris, the head baseball coach at the University of Miami, the Hoos (49-14) are as good as they have ever been under O’Conner.

They are an opportunistic team. They seem to always get big hits and they are well coached. Their strengths are pitching and defense, but they like to hit and run and run and hit,” Morris said. “I think they are the most talented, sound team we’ve played by far in my opinion. That includes Florida and Florida State and all those other folks we played.”

Virginia, who finished second in the ACC standings to Miami during the regular season, earned the No. 3 national prior to the start of the NCAA regionals. Virginia defeated Bucknell and then Arkansas twice to win the Charlottesville Regional and then, like Ole Miss, overcame losing the opener of its super regional series with Maryland to make it to the CWS.

Virginia is a team that relies on great pitching to win games, Morris said. The Cavaliers’ team ERA is 2.31, which ranks fifth best in the nation.

“They’re just a very solid club with some very solid players. They have a lot of guys on the mound, guys that can throw 90 to 95,” Morris said.

Sophomore Josh Sborz, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound right-hander, was talked about highly by Morris. He pitched in the second game of the series and helped lead the Cavaliers to an 8-3 win, striking out 10 in seven innings of work. Sborz was on the mound in the Game 3 of the super regional where he struck out nine Terrapins in seven innings of work.

“He’s a right hander and he pitches it at 93, 94 and he tops out at 95, 96. He’s got a hard breaking ball. He throws strikes and stays down in the count. He’s good,” Morris said. “You got to be ready to play because they are going to come after you from the start.”
Virginia relies on its ability to move around the bases by putting runners in motion, as opposed to straight-stealing a base. The Hoos hit .281 as a team and have 63 stolen bases in 83 attempts.

They average 5.58 runs per game, but only have two regulars hitting over .300.

New pressure
Virginia isn’t the only thing the Rebels are going to have deal with in Omaha. Morris said that everything is magnified, the press conferences, the autograph seekers, the overall attention, and the atmosphere can be a lot for teams not used to that.

“We went to Omaha my first six years, but that first year, I was the only one that hadn’t gone before because Miami was so used to going. It’s about getting the guys to relax and play the game and not get too caught up in all the autograph sessions, the parade, the fireworks. You have to get them to settle down and play the game and continue to do the things it took to get there,” Morris said. “There is a lot of TV and more press then you’ve been around. There is more of everything. If you’re not careful, you can get caught up in that as a player.”

Around the bracket
Texas Tech and TCU, both members of the Big 12, are also on Ole Miss’ side of the bracket in Omaha. The Red Raiders, coincidentally, knocked off Miami, on the road, as the No. 2 seed in the first round of the regionals. Texas Tech has a team ERA of 3.17, while TCU is the top-rated pitching staff from an ERA standpoint in the nation at 2.19.

Morris said the Red Raiders, who shut out College of Charleston in both super regional games, has three lefties they use and all are very good.

“They can pitch, they can pitch. That’s the name of their game,” Morris said. “They don’t score a lot of runs as a general rule. They don’t hit a lot of home runs because their park is so big, but they do move guys over and they play solid defense.”
Texas Tech (45-19) and TCU (47-16) will start the first game Sunday at 2 p.m.

john.davis@journalinc.com
Twitter: @oxfordcitizenjd



About John Davis

Eighteen years in the business. Dedicated to providing the best local content for sports. Oxford, Lafayette, Ole Miss, youth sports, outdoors and the things nobody else wants to cover.