Senior right-hander Artie Lewicki says opportunities like the one he will get Thursday morning kept him motivated as he worked his way back to the Virginia baseball team.
On Wednesday, UVa announced that Lewicki would start the Cavaliers' Pool B opener against Maryland at the ACC Tournament in Greensboro. Lewicki finished the regular season 5-1 with a 1.34 ERA, including seven shutout innings in a win at Wake Forest last Friday.
"It's something that I always kept in the back of my mind," Lewicki said earlier this week. "You try to take it one day at a time with the surgery, just going through rehab and the day of throwing, and just focusing on the task at hand at the time."
Lewicki has one ACC Tournament start on his UVa resume -- seven shutout innings in a win against Florida State as a sophomore two years ago. But an injury to his pitching elbow required Tommy John surgery, and forced Lewicki to miss practically his entire junior season, and work his way back into the Cavaliers' rotation this spring.
"Artie Lewicki has a lot of pride," said coach Brian O'Connor. "He's worked very hard to come back from his Tommy John surgery, that he had almost two years ago. And what happens in more cases than not, with that Tommy John surgery, is the second year they're a lot stronger. And he's showing that."
"I'm excited. I'm excited for the tournament, for sure," Lewicki said. "I'm glad the coaching staff has confidence in me, to let me have one of these games. So I'm really looking forward to it."
UVa only announced its starting pitcher for Thursday's game on Wednesday. The Cavaliers also face North Carolina on Friday and Florida State on Saturday in Pool B games.
Starting Lewicki on Thursday would allow the Cavaliers to keep ace Nathan Kirby on his regular rest for Friday's game with UNC. On Monday, the sophomore lefthander was named ACC Co-Pitcher of the Year after finishing the regular season 8-1 with a 1.58 ERA, the lowest in the league among qualifiers.
Other starting options for the Cavaliers this weekend include sophomore lefty Brandon Waddell (7-3, 2.90 ERA) and sophomore right-hander Josh Sborz (4-3, 3.13 ERA).
"A short week. More games. If we want to win the championship, you need four starters, really," Lewicki said. "And I think we have four great starters on this team.
"Depth of pitching is also important in the bullpen," Lewicki added. "We have Whit (Mayberry). We have guys like Nick Howard at the end of the game, shutting the door. I mean, you couldn't ask for a better arm at the end of the game."
The Cavaliers as a team finished the regular season seventh in the country with a 2.24 ERA, while Howard ranked fourth in the country with 17 saves. Both statistics led the ACC.
"That's so important when it comes to a tournament," said O'Connor. "To win an ACC Tournament, not only do you have to be clutch, and pound in runs when you get a chance. But you've got to have great pitching depth. And we certainly have that."