First-Years Help Cavaliers Get Back to NCAA Regional

Derek Fisher was playing high school baseball in Pennsylvania a year ago, while the Virginia baseball team was making its second College World Series run in three years.

Now Fisher is the Cavaliers' everyday left fielder and clean-up hitter, as they prepare to host an NCAA Regional at Davenport Field for the third consecutive season.

"We all knew we were pretty talented," Fisher said of the first-year position players on this year's team. "And I think the biggest thing we can take away from it is that we all stepped up when it was our time, and sure enough worked our way into the lineup. And some of us are everyday players now."

Fisher (50 starts) and catcher Nate Irving (46 starts) have been practically everyday players for Virginia in their first seasons on grounds. Two other freshmen, Brandon Downes an Brandon Cogswell, saw consistent playing time as the season progressed, while Kenny Towns and Mike Papi have also contributed at various points this spring.

"Well they've had a tremendous impact," said junior shortstop Chris Taylor. "You look at the numbers. We've gotten better over the course of the year. A lot of the credit has to go to the younger guys and how much they've improved."

"This point in the year, you can't even tell they're new players," said junior third baseman Stephen Bruno. "They're veterans, and they've helped this club as much as the veteran players have. Tremendous confidence on their part, and that's what it takes to win."

Fisher turned down the chance to sign with the Texas Rangers, who picked the outfielder in the sixth round of last year's draft, to attend Virginia. After starting the season down in the Cavaliers' batting order, Fisher worked his way up to the clean-up spot by mid-season.

Fisher has hit .309 in 53 games this season, and his seven homers and 50 RBI both lead the Cavaliers. But he admits he's still adjusting to baseball at the college level.

"I just knew it was going to take a little time, and I just had to relax and be able to hit some balls hard," he said. "And once I was consistently able to do that, I knew everything was going to fall in the right path.

"I'm just playing baseball. I'm not really trying to do too much," Fisher added. "I'm playing baseball the way I know how. That first weekend I think I was trying to do a little bit too much. And playing baseball the way I have been my whole life is probably the best thing I've done since then."

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