Brian O'Connor's top-ranked Virginia baseball team still has some tough tests ahead on the field. But O'Connor understands why that's not the primary focus for his players right now.
"Sometimes you get a feeling that practice during final exams, that their mind's somewhere else. And it should be," O'Connor said Monday afternoon.
UVa has been off since last Tuesday's 8-1 loss to Old Dominion at Harbor Park in Norfolk because of final exams. The Cavaliers return from their layoff on Wednesday night at Davenport Field against Liberty.
That's the first of eight games left of the schedule for the Wahoos before the ACC Tournament. And O'Connor says this stretch run is where teams want to start playing their best baseball.
"We really did, I think, everything that we can possibly do up until final exams," he said. "Played great baseball and put ourselves in great position. And now, now it's the time after they're out of exams, where it's just baseball for them. So it's an exciting time."
Despite last week's loss to the Monarchs, UVa remained ranked No. 1 in the country in most of the major college baseball polls this week -- including a fourth straight week atop the Baseball America national rankings. Liberty was ranked No. 22 in those rankings for the second straight week.
Wednesday's game against the Flames marks the first time since 2010 that the Cavaliers have hosted a ranked mid-week opponent. It's also the opener of the team's final five-game homestand of the regular season -- all against potential NCAA Tournament teams.
Georgia Tech comes to town this weekend, followed by a visit by VCU next Tuesday. The Cavaliers then close out the regular season with a three-game series at Wake Forest.
"Eight pivotal games coming up in the remainder of the regular season. There's no "gimmies" in any of those," O'Connor said. "They're all going to be a tremendous challenge. And I think those will get us ready for the tournament."