After coming up just short of a national title, the Virginia baseball team will take some time to recover from a long 2014 season. But soon enough, the Cavaliers will turn their attention to next season and start thinking about what it will take to make it back to Omaha.
"I think you'll have more of a firsthand perspective, and say to those guys that haven't been there 'this is what it's going to take, you've got to make sure we do this,'" said junior third baseman Kenny Towns. "We've been there, and it kind of just gives us that experience factor if we get there again."
"I think it'll set the bar a little higher," said senior pitcher Artie Lewicki, who is one of two UVa seniors that was picked in the 2014 MLB Draft. "I think it'll give guys a new goal to chase after, a higher expectation level for guys coming in here. And for the guys that are already here, they're going to have a sour taste in their mouth next year."
Of the 12 players that played in the final College World Series loss to Vanderbilt, the Cavaliers will likely lose six.
In total, eight players were selected in the MLB draft this year, including Lewicki and senior pitcher Whit Mayberry. There were also six juniors picked; pitcher and infielder Nick Howard, outfielder Derek Fisher, first baseman Mike Papi, outfielder Brandon Downes, second baseman Branden Cogswell, and catcher Nate Irving.
"It's going to be a team that's going to rely on some serious contributions from some first years," head coach Brian O'Connor said of next years' squad. "But that's okay because I think we're going to have the pitching to carry it for a while until those young players can get their feet on the ground and get some at-bats."
From a pitching standpoint, the Cavaliers will return their three main starters from 2014, in sophomores Nathan Kirby, Brandon Waddell, and Josh Sborz.
"I mean I think we're going to be bringing back plenty of talent," Towns said. "We''re going to lose an incredible amount of junior talent and senior talent, but I think we're going to have a great squad. The pitching staff is pretty much returnin,g so that's what you need to win games with. I think the future is bright for us."