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Abbott finding niche at Virginia

South Boston News
Abbott / April 16, 2018
While Virginia baseball is struggling to find consistency this season, former Comet Andrew Abbott is enjoying a very solid freshman campaign.

The lefthander from Nathalie pitched very well Friday night in Virginia’s series-opening 4-0 win over No. 22 North Carolina in Charlottesville.

Abbott looked very sharp in a three-inning relief appearance.

The freshman pitcher retired all nine batters he faced to earn his fourth save of the year. He matched season-best five strikeouts in three innings of work and overwhelmed a hard-hitting Carolina squad.

Virginia lost the series Saturday. UNC (24-12, 12-6 ACC) clinched its third-straight ACC series with a 12-5 victory over Virginia (20-16, 7-11 ACC) in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader. The Tar Heels evened the series earlier in the day with an 8-6 win in game one. In its closest bid to clinch the series, Virginia mounted a late game comeback in game one. The Cavaliers rallied for three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to tie the game at six but the Tar Heels put together the game-winning rally with two runs in the top of the ninth. North Carolina used three, four-run innings in the nightcap to seal its second-consecutive series victory over Virginia. The Tar Heel offense racked up 15 hits and took advantage of 10 free passes and three four hit by pitches by the Virginia pitching staff.

It’s that kind of inconsistency that makes an NCAA tournament appearance a major question mark for Brian O’Connor’s program this season. The Cavaliers won the national title in 2015, and O’Connor is a three-time national coach of the year. Virginia has had NCAA tournament appearances in each of his 14 seasons, and there’s no question O’Connor has been a major agent of change for Virginia baseball, which had three NCAA tournament appearances prior to his arrival.

Abbott is part of a continuing effort to seek excellence in the Virginia program.

Senior pitcher Derek Casey worked six clean innings to earn his fifth victory of the season and Virginia had opportunistic offense.

Casey did a good job grinding against a tough UNC offense, according to O’Connor.

Abbott threw 36 pitches in relief and looked very sharp. UNC never found a solution and certainly never put any real pressure on the Cavalier reliever.”When I went in, I was just going to try and flood the zone with strikes,just try and get ahead, keep people off base, so we didn’t have to use anybody else in the bullpen today,” Abbott said Friday night.

“Andrew Abbott was as good tonight as he’s been all year,” said O’Connor.

“He was terrific, locating his fastball with great velocity, his breaking ball, his changeup.”

O’Connor said starting assignments at Virginia loom in Abbott’s future, but he said, “this year, the biggest asset for us is having him in the bullpen.

Abbott came into the key UNC opener with the mission to shut down the Tar Heels in the opener, but Virginia could not maintain its momentum in the doubleheader sweep by the Heels on Saturday.

The former Comet ace did not allow a base runner and had some nasty stuff against Carolina.

Abbott did not get any work in either game Saturday.

Afterwards, Abbott assessed his freshman campaign.

He did not know what to expect, getting used to a much higher level of competition.

“As a first year, you really don’t expect to play, you have to earn it.

So, I didn’t really know what to expect. I had Derek (Casey) and (Bennett) Sousa and Riley (Wilson), the fourth years on the team - tell you, you work hard, you’ll get rewarded.

“And then working hard, and the progress I’ve made, had made me been able to access my abilities and play on the field now.”

Abbott said this appearance Friday is one of his top two of the season, with a sterling appearance against Duke as the other one.

Abbott worked two innings in a 3-0 win over Duke in March, striking out four to earn his second save of the season.

Abbott was on top of his game Friday against a Carolina squad that’s battling the Blue Devils for supremacy in the ACC’s Coastal Division.

“This was one of my best ones,” said the freshman.

Abbott is working on doing his job, whether it’s eating innings topreserve the bullpen or coming in to close out the game.

Abbott is seeking to improve overall. He is working with a nutritionist and a weight training coach to add some body mass. Abbott has put on 15 pounds since he left high school.

He’s added velocity to his pitches - he can touch the low 90s - and seems to be on track for significant improvement ahead, assuming he can continue to stay healthy.

Abbott had an ERA of 4.45 with a 2-2 mark in 13 appearances before Friday.

Abbott has now worked 31.1 innings with 46 strikeouts and only nine walks.

He lowered his season numbers with a sparkling outing against Carolina.

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