Tunkhannock Area graduate and University of Virginia junior Mike Papi might have felt a little homesick Sunday night, as snow blanketed the Charlottesville campus, cancelling school on Monday.
And though most diamonds in Northeastern Pa. still show remnants of winter snow, baseball season is in full swing for Papi and the Cavaliers, who have put together a 15-3 overall record and only one loss in five Atlantic Coast Conference games.
Papi has remained a consistent threat at the plate for Virginia this season, batting .338 with a .600 slugging percentage, and currently holds a three-way tie for the ACC lead in home runs with five, two of which came in one game against James Madison eight days ago.
Virginia entered the season as the number one ranked team in college baseball, but lost the season opener to Kentucky. However, the Cavaliers slowly found their footing as the season wore on, and Papi was no exception.
“I try to pride myself in consistency,” Papi said. “To be a great ballplayer, you have to be consistent and come to the field every day with the right mind set. When I get into the box, you have to have that confidence and a little bit of cockiness that you aren’t going to get beat by the guy on the mound, and that you’re going to hit the ball hard. Once you worry about the results, you’ll get consumed by it.”
That confidence at the plate came full circle when Papi blasted two home runs and drove in three in a 13-2 win against James Madison on March 11.
Papi put the Cavs on the board with a solo shot in the first inning, and hit a towering two-run homer that cleared the right field bleachers as part of an eight-run third.
“For me and the team, we’re trying to stay inside the ball and drive the ball to the middle of the field,” Papi said. “I was facing a lefty and I went up to the plate just wanting to hit the ball hard and not worrying about the end result too much. It ended up that things went the right way that day.”
Papi also brought home the game-winning run in the series finale against Boston College on Sunday.
With the bases loaded and no outs and facing a five-man infield, Papi hit a solid ground ball that was mishandled at first base and gave the Cavaliers the 2-1 win.
“I was just trying to lift the ball to the outfield,” Papi joked.
He also had a two-out RBI single in the fifth inning of the first game of the day, which Virginia won 3-2 in 12 innings.
“Our hitting hasn’t been at the top of our game yet, but our pitching has been really good at attacking hitters and our defense has been making good plays behind them,” he added. “ That definitely helps win games.”
Though the season is young, Papi is already enjoying the team camaraderie of the Cavaliers and the high level of talent in the lineup each day.
“Every year that I’ve been here has had so much talent and it helps you to individually push yourself to be the best,” Papi said. “The experience has been great and our coaching staff has been able to turn talent into great players. I’m hopeful we can be successful this season and turn into an Omaha team.”
Virginia is now ranked number three in the country, and will look to remain confident and consistent against Towson today before travelling to Coral Gables, Fla., for a three-game ACC series against Miami March 22-24, which can been seen on ESPN 3, at 7 p.m.