Brian O'Connor said he couldn't wait to get to work with his Virginia baseball team on Friday, the Cavaliers' first official day of practice.
"Oh this is exciting.," said O'Connor, whose team opens the season against Kentucky on February 14, in Wilmington N.C. "I rolled out of bed this morning, I feel like I put my uniform on right away, I was so excited to get going. We're three weeks away."
"But I'm excited for this team," O'Connor added. "I'm excited to see how this team competes throughout the season, because there's certainly plenty enough talent."
O'Connor's fellow ACC coaches clearly agree. The league the league's preseason coaches pollreleased its preseason baseball poll on Friday morning, with 10 of the conference's 14 coaches voting Virginia as the preseason favorite to win the whole thing.
UVa also got 12 of 14 votes to win the Coastal Division. Florida State, the preseason pick to win the Atlantic Division, received the other four votes as league favorite, while defending ACC champ North Carolina received the other two votes to win the Coastal.
As usual, O'Connor didn't shy away from those high expectations on Friday.
"There's nothing wrong with expectations," he said. "Certainly we have a lot of confidence in our guys. We have a group of young men that have played a lot for us here. And with that, and with talent, comes expectations."
The Cavaliers return seven of nine everyday players and two of three weekend starters from last year's 50-win team, that finished second in the Coastal Division and advanced to an NCAA Super Regional. UVa added to that nucleus with the No. 14 recruiting class in the country, according to Baseball America.
The 2014 poll marks the second time UVa has been voted ACC preseason favorite. The Cavaliers were also the pick to win the league entering the 2010 season. The 2011 team was picked to win the Coastal Division, while the 2009 team was picked to finish fourth in the division. Both of those teams won the ACC, and advanced to the College World Series.
O'Connor's current players were in high school for those seasons. But they say having a coach who has dealt with lofty expectations is a tremendous help.
"He knows how to handle everything," said junior outfielder Mike Papi. "He knows how to keep us on track, keep us in line, and make sure our focus is on the team. And make sure it's about the baseball, and not about what everyone else thinks outside of baseball."
"For guys who are either first-years in the program, or third-years in the program, or fourth- and fifth-years in the program, it helps cultivate this attitude of success, and this attitude of expectations that we need to have," said junior catcher Nate Irving. "And hopefully through that we'll accomplish something special."
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