Players on the Virginia baseball team aren't concerned about their perceived struggles at the plate this season. There's only one statistic they're focused on -- the team's 44 wins.
"The team's winning. That's the only thing that matters," junior catcher Nate Irving said this week. "If our team's winning, then that's the only thing we think about."
UVa began the 2014 ranked No. 1 in the country, based largely on the everyday players the Cavaliers had back from last year's lineup. The Wahoos finished second in the country with 489 runs in 2013, and led the ACC with a .312 team batting average.
While their offensive numbers are down this year -- the team's 308 runs are tied for 88th in the country, and its .277 batting average currently ranks fourth in the ACC -- the Wahoos still went 44-13 during the regular season, and earned the No. 3 national seed in this year's NCAA Tournament.
"It's working. What we're doing is working. We're winning ballgames. It's something that I think we lose sight of sometimes," said junior outfielder Derek Fisher.
"All we can really ask for is to be able to get clutch hits in clutch situations, and at the end of the day put a W on the board," Fisher added. "That's something we've been able to do, and something we've been priding ourselves on. We score 10 runs and that's fine, but it's not something that we're going to really expect."
The Cavaliers have made up for their down numbers at the plate with strong performances on the mound and in the field. UVa enters Friday's NCAA regional opener against Bucknell ranked third in the country with a .982 fielding percentage, and the team's 2.36 ERA is seventh in the country.
"This year, it goes to show how good our pitching and defense has been," said junior infielder/outfielder Mike Papi. "And if we can, as an offense, we're comfortable getting three or four runs, and being comfortable with our pitching staff being able to take care of the rest of the game."
Papi led the ACC in hitting with a .381 average in 2013, and was one of six everyday players to hit better than .300 last season. Papi's average is down to .289 this season, though he did lead the league with 10 homers.
Only Joe McCarthy (.305) and John La Prise (.367 in 38 games) are the only UVa regulars to break the .300 mark.
"Every year is different," said Irving, who saw his batting average drop from .284 last year to .256 this season. "Baseball is a game where it's very hard to produce at the same level, every single time you get out there. Everything is going to change."
"I don't think there's one rhyme or reason for it," Irving added. "But it's a new season. Everybody says it. The postseason, it's a new season. Opening day is on Friday, and we're excited to get started."