O’Connor stresses to team, ‘We’re going to Omaha to win’

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photo: UVA Athletics

Last year, Virginia transfer pitcher Brian Edgington was in awe of his first trip to Omaha for the College World Series, reflecting a shared emotion by many of his teammates.

“I think Omaha, to a certain degree, is a mythical place,” Edgington said. “I’ve never been there, but when we get off that plane, I think it’s probably all going to set in and I’ll realize that this isn’t a dream, that this is reality.”

The Cavaliers were eliminated quickly from the 2023 CWS, losing a pair of one-run games to Florida and TCU (4-3 and 6-5), with their best hitters handcuffed by opposing pitching. A few of the returning UVA players said last week that this time around in Omaha, they’re going to be more business-like and not just be happy to be there.

Virginia coach Brian O’Connor, who is taking his seventh team to the mecca of college baseball, addressed that very topic with his club on Tuesday. UVA will fly to Omaha on Wednesday morning and will take on ACC rival North Carolina at 2 p.m. on Friday (ESPN).

“I gave the veteran players an opportunity to talk to their teammates about what it’s like playing in Omaha and everything that goes on with the College World Series,” O’Connor said Tuesday about the team meeting.

Henry Godbout, Griff O’Ferrall and Anthony Stephan were among the veterans who shared their experience from the ‘23 trip.

“They explained to their teammates how you need to go about your business to win there,” O’Connor said. “There’s lessons to be learned as players and as a staff. We’re fortunate that we’ve made a number of trips coaching the team and have learned a lot, but it’s important that the players understand what they need to do and that it’s not about going out there and being happy that you’re participating in something, but you’re going out there to win.

“That can be a little bit of the problem with the destination always being the same city and has been for well over 50 years. I know our guys will handle it the right way, and the wisdom that was shared by those veteran players was spot-on and will help them be prepared.”