Tyler Molinaro remembers watching Ryan Zimmerman and Mark Reynolds when they played in Virginia uniforms. His family still has season tickets to Davenport Field.
Molinaro is back in Charlottesville this weekend for the NCAA regional at Davenport Field. But he won't be wearing the orange and blue of the Cavaliers.
Molinaro is a senior outfielder at UNC-Wilmington, the No. 2 seed in this weekend's regional.
"It's kind of like a full circle kind of deal right here," the Albemarle High School alum said Thursday. "This is where it all started. And to have a chance to come back here senior year, play in front of the hometown crowd, and what should be a good atmosphere. It's special, and I'm really looking forward to it."
Molinaro has spent the past two seasons with the Seahawks. He was a third-team All-CAA outfielder as a junior in 2012, after hitting .273 with a conference-best 16 homers and team-high 48 RBI. This season his average has slipped to .249, but he again leads the team with 11 homers entering Friday's regional opener against Elon.
"He shows up each day. He's played well defensively, no matter what's happened on the offensive side," said UNCW head coach Mark Scalf. "He's worked hard. He wants to play well; he wants to do well. He wants the team to play well. And that in itself has helped lead our ballclub."
It has taken Molinaro less than two full seasons at UNCW to crack the program's all-time top 10 in home runs (his currently tied for ninth, with 27). That includes a two-run go-ahead shot in the eighth inning of the Seahawks' 9-8 win at then-No. 1 North Carolina last month.
UNCW enters regional play with a 37-21 record, and a CAA regular season title this season. And Molinaro says the Seahawks can play with any of the teams in Charlottesville this weekend.
Including, he hopes, the host Cavaliers.
"We feel like we have a really good chance to do some damage in this regional. We're familiar with Elon, who we drew first," he said. "And hopefully we take care of business on Friday and have a chance to play Saturday against a sold-out crowd against UVa."