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When ODU hosts Virginia, it will be about more than a baseball game

Courtesy: ODU Athletics
         
Release: April 22, 2014
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When ODU hosts Virginia, it’ will be about more than a baseball game

by Rich Radford

When Old Dominion University baseball coach Chris Finwood approached University of Virginia baseball coach Brian O’Connor about the nationally ranked Cavaliers making a road trip to Norfolk, O’Connor made something perfectly clear about the prospects.

“He said he didn’t want to do it early in the season when the weather is iffy,” Finwood said.

It’s hard to get the Cavaliers to travel in-state, frankly because they really don’t have to. They can sit at home in Charlottesville and pay other teams guarantees to come to their place. But Finwood didn’t want a guarantee. He wanted a home game and wasn’t afraid to ask if Virginia would make a trip here.

Virginia’s baseball team will roll into Harbor Park next Tuesday, April 29, for what promises to be a delightful night of baseball. The Cavaliers have been at or near the top of the national polls all season. They will come to town after a three-game set at Florida State, a matchup of the 1-2 teams in the nation.

They are a hot ticket, no doubt. The timing is perfect for bringing the Cavaliers to town. Moving the game to Harbor Park was one of the Virginia’s requirements and Finwood didn’t mind the idea. If fact, he had done something similar when he was at Western Kentucky University.

“We played the University of Kentucky at the Class A stadium in Bowling Green and packed 6,500 into the place,” Finwood said. “It was a state record for a college baseball game.”

Both camps – ODU’s and Virginia’s – should be adequately served by playing at Harbor Park. In other words, it’s a win-win.

“One of the reasons Virginia wants to make the trip is because they have a strong alumni base here in Hampton Roads and it gives them a chance to play in front of those fans,” Finwood said. “For us, we bring in one of the nation’s top programs and if we play well we have a chance to put up a big win.”

The two have met already this season, with the Cavaliers winning 7-1 in Charlottesville. The Monarchs had one bad six-run inning that was the difference.

 So being competitive isn’t a worry for Finwood. He hopes for a big crowd, win or lose.

“We have been putting the word out,” Finwood said. “Just the other day I saw our television commercial for the game, so we have been actively marketing this thing to the Hampton Roads people.”

Scheduling college baseball to affect a scenario like this one can be tricky. College baseball schedules are made two years in advance. You end up scheduling a team on reputation rather than roster … and Virginia’s reputation over the last decade in this sport is very strong.

But on the flip side ODU is having a solid season. The schedule Finwood produced for this team to play is one of the most challenging across the country. At last look the Monarchs had combined that strength of schedule with a winning record to create a national ranking of 27 in the ratings percentage index.

Playing against Virginia this late in the season won’t really alter that RPI all of that much, but it can’t hurt.

“We drew over 3,500 for our recent series against East Carolina, so I feel like the fan interest is there for us,” Finwood said. “Combine that with the appeal of a top-ranked team like Virginia and we could have a very special night.”

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