As the South Carolina Gamecocks prepare for their second game of the 2011 College World Series, we here at GABA thought it would be fruitful to get a perspective from the enemy, so to speak. Take a look at Streaking the Lawn's answers to our questions after the jump. Special thanks to Will Campbell for his cooperation. You can check out our answers to their questions here.
1.) First off, what’s with the blog name? Is "streaking the lawn" a Virginia tradition I should be familiar with? Are there any UVA baseball-specific traditions you would like to share with Gamecock fans?
Well, "streaking the lawn" comes from an age-old UVa tradition where students of UVa run down our "lawn" naked (streaking). UVa's "grounds" (we don't have a campus(yes, we're aware, everyone hates us)) is centered around our Rotunda which Jefferson designed. In front of it are two corridors of dorms with a lawn in between them. God only knows how the tradition started but it has stuck and now to be truly considered a UVa student you have to do it at 3 AM after having imbibed at one of the local establishments
Unfortunately, we don't have too many baseball-specific traditions. Success with the baseball program is fairly new so a lot of UVa fans are still getting their feet wet with baseball. We don't have any now but we're hoping that a yearly trip to Omaha becomes a mainstay.
2.) Obviously, you don’t have the kind of success UVA has had this season without being solid in both phases of the game, but on which side of the plate would you say the Cavaliers are the strongest?
I would have to say the pitching staff is the strongest aspect of UVa's game. Lead by the #2 overall pick, Danny Hultzen, the pitching staff has amassed one of the top ERAs in the nation. Coach Kuhn (pitching coach) takes an immense pride in the process that he has developed for the staff over the past 8 years and it has hardly ever failed. This year is certainly no different. That is not to take away from the hitting or defense but the pitching has been down right phenomenal all year.
3.) What Cavaliers players give your team its identity? Who are the fan favorites?
Obviously everyone loves a winner and someone who has been successful so, many fans have grown to love Danny Hultzen. Nationally, he would be the most recognizable but in Charlottesville, everyone loves Keith Werman. He learned from his brother what it meant and took to play baseball at UVa and he has brought that to Davenport Field over the last 3 years. He embodies the UVa mantra which is "Win the pitch. Win the at-bat. Win the inning. Win the game." He never takes a play off and is the scrappiest player many have seen in college baseball. Reminiscent of Dustin Pedroia.
4.) Alright, I have to ask. What happened in the UNC series?
Sometimes you're the bug. Sometimes you're the windshield. UVa just didnt bring their A+ game while UNC was playing their best baseball all season. The Heels needed to boost their resume in order to ensure that they were going to host in the NCAA tournament and were trying to also wrap up a national seed. UVa on the other hand, had already done both of those. I won't say that they took the series off but will give UNC more credit for wanting it more. I think it was somewhat of a wake up call for the 'Hoos as they've only lost one game (to UC Irvine) since that series.
5.) The stat sheets tell me that you have a few stud starting pitchers, but they don't tell me much about your relievers. What is UVA's bullpen situation like? What kind of stuff does closer Branden Kline have?
UVa has a pretty strong bullpen and has a cast of four or five guys that can rely on to come on and pitch well. Coach O'Connor and Coach Kuhn like to pitch to matchups so you might see three or four pitchers an inning if USC can mix and match their hitters. If there is a right handed hitter in the box it will likely be third year Justin Thompson or 2nd year Whit Mayberry. Thompson has been strong all year while Whit struggled but showed in the ACC tournament he wants the ball in key situations by going toe to toe with UNC. From the left handed side the ball will likely be given to 3rd year Scott Silverstein or 1st year Kyle Crockett. Neither have been used a whole lot this year because the starting pitching has been so stellar and the coaches have been able to rely on Thompson or Kline to seal the deal.
Branden Kline has been a special player for the 'Hoos this year. Most teams would have put Kline at the front of their rotation probably on Saturday and maybe even on Friday. He's a hard throwing righty that has a great breaking ball. He has set the UVa record for saves this year with 18 and can hopefully build on that. He was selected to play for Team USA this summer and will likely be UVa's Friday night starter next year with the departure of Hultzen.
6.) Tell me about Jared King. His stat line intrigues me - leading the team in strike outs with 43, but still hitting .331, 474 slg%, and .416 ob%. Is this kid a voodoo master?
Jared has been somewhat of a surprise this year. He didn't get too much playing time his first two years on the team but has certainly made the most of it this year. I can't really say how he has been able to strike out 43 times but still have an impressive .331 average, those numbers don't really jive in my head either. But, King is a great hitter at the plate. His swing will force him to strike out at times but if he does make solid contact it allows him to drive the ball into the gaps and give him that high slugging percentage.
7.) The Cavaliers have compiled a 55-10 record this year - an amazing feat - and have been ranked #1 for a large portion of the year. At what point did you know this was going to be a special season?
I would say after the Clemson series early in the year. Clemson was considered to be one of the stronger teams in the conference and the country and our boys went in and swept them much to Leggett's disappointment. The team had lost a lot of talent off of last year's highly ranked squad and not many were expecting a whole lot. That series sweep opened the eyes of many to what this UVa team was capable of.
8.) Follow up question: Is just making the College World Series enough to consider this season a success?
I don't think so. In 2009, when we made our first ever trip to Omaha, many fans and players alike were amazed that we had made it that far especially given the teams we had to beat to get there. Last year, many had already booked their flights to Nebraska when the NCAA tournament was announced. This year, while it has been awesome for the team to do so well all year, and making a second trip to the College World Series in three years has been great, I don't think anyone associated with the team will be satisfied with just an appearance. This team has shown time and time again that they have what it takes and many are hoping and maybe even expecting success in Omaha.
I think both teams (UVa and USC) were expecting to win their first game and meet in the winners bracket. I'm excited about the game and hoping we can get back some revenge for what you guys did to us in Charlottesville in 2006.