Special Q&A With Virginia’s O’Connor

Brian O'Connor Mug NZ3T5660 NewBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Virginia Head Coach Brian O’Connor and his coaching staff orchestrated one of the most amazing comebacks in college baseball history last season.

O’Connor led the Cavaliers to their first national baseball championship at the College World Series. Due to injuries, Virginia lost 8 of 11 games at one point. They went through periods where they lost 4 in a row twice and 3 in a row three times.

Because of the injury epidemic, Virginia trotted out 31 different starting lineups over a 61-game span, and Cavalier position players combined to miss 146 games last season.

Entering the last ACC series of the season at North Carolina, Virginia was only 12-15 in league action and in serious danger of not even qualifying for the 10-team ACC tournament.

But they regrouped to sweep a 3-game series at North Carolina and ultimately made the NCAA playoffs despite having the seventh best record in the ACC (15-15).

The coaching staff never lost faith and kept hammering home the point that a late season run was possible. Then something magical happened. The team went 10-2 in NCAA tournament play and won the national title

It was the craziest, but most rewarding, season in O’Connor’s coaching career. Sit back and learn how Brian O’Connor and his coaching staff handled all the adversity that happened last season.

CB: What transpired through parts of the season must have been incredibly frustrating as the losses mounted and Virginia ultimately finished with the seventh best record in ACC games. How did your coaching staff right the ship as the team ultimately played incredible baseball in the NCAA playoffs to win the national title?

O’CONNOR: To get a total perspective on this, you have to go back to what the expectations were coming into the start of the season. We finished second in the nation in 2014 and lost a lot of players off that team. But we still had plenty of good players back and some fine new players. The prognosticators going into the season predicted us to be a College World Series team again. There was a certain level of expectations from that stand point. We started off with 10 straight wins. Then after that, we hit some really tough stretches. We had a number of different injuries we dealt with as a coaching staff. Halfway through the season, our No. 1 starting pitcher Nathan Kirby went down with a lat strain. The coaching staff knew going into the season that the numbers on our team were pretty low with 29 players. So we realized in the first semester we had to develop some versatility with some of our guys. We turned one of our pitchers into an outfielder/first baseman. We knew if we had some injuries, that flexibility would be important. Then we were hit hard with injuries, and it was incredibly challenging from a coaches’ perspective. But in the end, it was the most rewarding.

To read more about how Virginia’s coaching staff handled the rough times during the 2015 season which allowed the team to peak at the right time and win the national title, purchase the Oct. 2, 2015 edition by CLICKING HERE.

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