WCAV-WVAW-WAHU | Charlottesville, Virginia | Sports

Kirby, Cavs Ready to Open Super Regional


To this point in his sophomore season, Virginia's Nathan Kirby has thrown a no-hitter, out-dueled draft picks, and in his most recent start, thrown eight innings of one-hit, shutout baseball in his NCAA Tournament debut.

Kirby says he draws confidence from those performances this spring. But he will also leave them in the past the next time he takes the mound, in Saturday's NCAA Super Regional opener between UVa and Maryland.

"I try to forget about the last start, whether it was a great start or a bad start," said Kirby, who was officially announced as UVa's starter on Friday afternoon. "But I try to treat the day, whatever's in front of me, I try to go out and compete and throw strikes, and not really worry about whether last week was a bad week or a good week."

Kirby will take the hill on Saturday with a 9-1 record and a 1.36 ERA on the season. He was named the Most Outstanding Player of last weekend's Charlottesville Regional after giving up just one hit, walking two, and striking out nine in eight shutout innings in UVa's 3-0 win against Arkansas last Saturday.

That win broke a string of three straight no-decisions for Kirby, who has only given up three runs in a start three times all season.

"I think most importantly is that when Kirby's out on the mound, that our offense has to focus on getting the lead for him, and getting runs up on the board," said junior first baseman Mike Papi, who hit a two-run homer in the first inning of Kirby's last start. "So that he can go out there with the utmost confidence himself, and pound the zone."

The Terrapins will counter with senior right-hander Jake Stinnett, who enters Saturday's game at 7-6 on the season, with a 2.65 ERA. Stinnett -- who was taken by the Chicago Cubs in Round 2 of the Major League draft on Thursday night -- beat the Cavaliers in both teams' ACC Tournament opener last month in Greensboro.

Stinnett gave up 10 hits and four runs in eight innings in that first start against the Wahoos, but also struck out 10 hitters and didn't surrender a walk. And he said Friday that he'll take the same approach from that game to the mound on Saturday.

"Against anyone, really, if you just get ahead of hitters and just attack them, you're going to have success," Stinnett said. "And I found that against them, when I did that, that's when I had the most success. And if I didn't, they'd hit me around a little bit."

"Jake Stinnett has proved all year he's going to come out and compete, and that's something that we look to do every single time out there," said UVa outfielder Derek Fisher. "So I think, just to put it plain and simple, he's going to come out and he's going to come right at us, and we're going to do our best to bring the ball right back at him."

"I think we're just fortunate that we get to see him twice," said Papi. "I know that their team hasn't seen Kirby or Waddell, and I think it's advantage to have that underneath our belt."

UVa coach Brian O'Connor said either sophomore lefty Brandon Waddell or senior right-hander Artie Lewicki -- who took the loss against the Terrapins in the ACC Tournament -- would start Sunday's second game, with the other starting a potential third and deciding game on Monday.

For O'Connor's program, this weekend marks a fifth super regional appearance in the last six years, with the Wahoos advancing to the College World Series in 2009 and 2011.

Saturday's game will be the first super regional appearance in Maryland baseball history.

"Certainly we have a lot of respect for them," O'Connor said. "They played with a lot of momentum that day. They're playing with a lot of momentum right now. They've got very good players that, it seems like they've got an edge to them, and they're playing with a lot of confidence."


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