'Hoos Hoping for Strong Start to NCAA Regional at Home

Virginia has advanced past the regional round of the NCAA baseball tournament in each of the past three seasons, including the last two at home.

So the Cavaliers, who are 9-1 overall and 3-0 in openers in NCAA regional play over those past three seasons, understand the importance of a strong start.

"You always want to come out and open up a regional tournament with a win," junior shortstop Chris Taylor said after practice on Tuesday. "It makes it easier down the road, and saves some pitching. We definitely want the momentum on our side early."

For the third straight year, the Cavaliers are hosting a regional at Davenport Field this weekend. Virginia opens play in the Charlottesville Regional at 4 p.m. Friday against Patriot League champion Army.

"Army's a great club," junior third baseman Stephen Bruno said. "They won their conference, they have 40-plus wins. We know they're going to come in with a lot of confidence, and so are we. So it's going to be a great game, and hopefully we're going to get off to a great start. It's important to get that W."

"This is what you play for," said senior second baseman Keith Werman. "This is what you work hard for in the fall and in the off-season, to get that opportunity to play in the playoffs and make a run here. We'll take it game one here on Friday, and see where we go."

This weekend's regional tournament also gives Werman and his fellow seniors another chance to play in front of home crowds at Davenport. Virginia finished the regular season with wins in five of its last six games at home.

"It's a big advantage. We know our field better than anybody. We play on it everyday," said Werman. "As well as the fans. We'll get a great crowd here starting on Friday. I'm really looking forward to that."

"When you host a regional, obviously it's a reward for our players," said Virginia head coach Brian O'Connor. "But most importantly it's a reward for our fans that have been by us all year long, and this is their opportunity to come out and support this team one more time."

The last postseason game at Davenport ended with Taylor's walk-off RBI single to beat UC-Irvine in last year's Super Regional.

"This is the best time of the year," Taylor said Tuesday. "You just get to focus on baseball; you don't have to worry about classes. If you don't get excited for the postseason, then you don't have a pulse."


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