Brian O’Connor says he’s undecided on Friday’s starter

After Virginia Coach Brian O’Connor was through with his postgame speech to the team following the Cavaliers’ 8-1 win over California in a College World Series elimination game Thursday night, he pulled junior left-hander Danny Hultzen aside.

O’Connor, Hultzen and pitching coach Karl Kuhn spoke for a few minutes, and then the coaches sent Hultzen up the tunnel leading out of the dugout, ahead of the rest of his teammates.

The Cavaliers’ victory Thursday meant they would play South Carolina on Friday night at 7 p.m., and while O’Connor claimed in his postgame press conference to not have “any idea right now, honestly,” it seems a good bet that Hultzen – the staff’s ace and the No. 2 overall selection in this year’s MLB draft – will take the mound for the rematch against the Gamecocks.

As of late Thursday night, South Carolina had not named its starter for Friday’s contest, though the Gamecocks reportedly will choose either junior left-hander Michael Roth or freshman right-hander Forrest Koumas.

Roth (13-3, 0.97 ERA) threw 122 pitches and lasted seven and one-thirds innings in his start Sunday against Texas A&M. He allowed four hits, five walks and four runs (none earned) in South Carolina’s 5-4 win. He also recorded eight strikeouts.

Koumas (6-1, 3.07 ERA) last pitched June 5 in an 8-2 victory over Stetson in the regional round. He went four innings that outing, giving up one run on three hits and two walks.

Whoever South Carolina sends to the mound Friday, Virginia will aim to fare better at the plate than it did during Tuesday’s 7-1 loss to the Gamecocks. The Cavaliers managed just five hits that night and admitted to being passive collectively when at bat.

“I don’t think that we approach the game any differently” than the Cavaliers did Tuesday, Virginia Coach Brian O’Connor said. “South Carolina’s got a very good ball club. So do we. (Friday) night’s game has nothing to do with the previous game that we played. There’s no question that we’re going to have to play a really good ball game, but so are they, to win, you know?

“I know whoever we start in that ball game on the mound, our entire team will have confidence in that player to go out there and get us off to a good start. That’s all we can ask for.”

All signs point to that starter being Hultzen, who has compiled a 12-3 record and a 1.41 ERA this season. Hultzen threw 113 pitches in six and one-thirds innings Sunday during a 4-1 win over California. He allowed three hits, three walks and no runs, while striking out six.

Were O’Connor to hold Hultzen with the plan to start him in a potential game Saturday – a contest the Cavaliers only would play if they won Friday – Hultzen might not be available to pitch in the CWS title series, should Virginia advance that far.

In the event Hultzen does not start Friday against South Carolina, O’Connor might opt to turn to sophomore right-hander Whit Mayberry (5-0, 3.00 ERA). Mayberry – who has been used primarily as a reliever this season – last started on March 23 against Towson, an outing in which he lasted five innings and allowed no runs on four hits and a walk.

Mayberry faced two batters and recorded the final out of Tuesday’s loss to South Carolina.

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