Cavs Eager to Return, Focused on Strong Finish

There aren't many college students who enjoy final exams. And that includes members of the baseball team at Virginia.

The Cavaliers' ten-day layoff for exams ends on Friday, when they open a three-game ACC series at Davenport Field against Duke. And the Cavs say they're ready to once again play ball.

"After seeing these guys, facing the same guys for the entire fall," senior first baseman Jared King said Wednesday after practice, "and then we get the break for I guess the last four months, and then we have to see the same guys over and over again, we're ready to see somebody else in a different uniform."

"This is the greatest part of the year, right here," said senior second baseman Reed Gragnani. "We're winding down the season, we're starting to get into playoffs soon, and all we've got to do is focus on baseball. So it's a great time for us."

While his player can't wait for exams break to end, Virginia head coach Brian O'Connor thinks the layoff came at a good time for his 39-8 team.

"We were playing pretty much the same 10 guys, position player-wise, every day the whole year. And this allows them to get their feet back underneath them, and for a big push here in the final (two weekends of the) regular season."

Seven games remain on Virginia's schedule before the Cavaliers head to Durham for the ACC tournament later this month. After three with Duke this weekend the Cavaliers host VCU in next Tuesday's home finale, then wrap up the regular season with three in Chapel Hill against North Carolina, the top-ranked team in the country.

"You've got to finish strong," Gragnani said. "And that's what we prepare for all year. Even going back to the fall, and conditioning, and stuff like that. We prepare for the last couple weeks of the season. It's really important for us to be playing great, sound, fundamental baseball going into the playoffs."

"With the way that the NCAA Tournament is set up, it's all about who's hot at the end," said King. "I think this break has been nice for us, and I think we're going to be ready to go."

"I think it's really important," O'Connor said of a strong finish. "That we have goals of what we want to do in the regular season and things like that, pushing into the postseason."

"But also, we've had years that we've had really great seasons, and we haven't finished strong."

O'Connor pointed to the 2011 team that finished the regular season by getting swept at North Carolina, then went on to win the ACC championship and eventually reach the College World Series in Omaha.

"I don't know that there's for sure an exact formula," O'Connor said. "You just want to be playing good baseball at the end."


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