University of Virginia baseball coach Brian O'Connor. Courtesy of the University of Virginia Athletics.
University of Virginia baseball coach Brian O'Connor. Courtesy of the University of Virginia Athletics.

After a series of matchups in a variety of sports, Virginia’s loss to Duke in the first game of the Super Regional NCAA baseball matchup this past weekend wasn’t particularly promising. Seems like Duke had Virginia’s number all year.

In a visit to Charlottesville earlier in the year, Duke’s football team had beaten Virginia 38-7.

In men’s basketball, Virginia had defeated visiting Duke 69-62 in overtime in a finish that was highly disputed by the Blue Devils.

Duke later came back to defeat the Cavaliers 59-49 in the ACC title game.

A first go-around for new UVa women’s basketball coach Amaka Agugua Hamilton included a 70-56 loss at Duke and a 56-52 setback against the Blue Devils in Charlottesville. 

And, there was more than that. On March 31, Duke came to Virginia for a men’s lacrosse game in which the Blue Devils knocked off unbeaten and No. 1-ranked UVa 16-14.

When they played again 15 days later, the Blue Devils won 15-14 in Durham, North Carolina.

Virginia didn’t have a particularly dynamic women’s lacrosse team, although the Cavaliers managed to defeat the Blue Devils 16-12.

It was a formidable Duke baseball team that came to Charlottesville this past weekend. After all, Duke came to Charlottesville in April and took two of three from the Cavaliers. After the Blue Devils defeated Virginia 5-4 in the first game on Friday, the Cavaliers proceeded to win the next two games 14-4 and 12-2 to earn a sixth trip to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, which they won in 2015.

Nothing is for certain nowadays as a result of the transfer portal, which applies to baseball as much as football and men’s and women’s basketball. Who would have believed, a year ago, that UVa’s starting pitchers in the Super Regional, Nick Parker, Connelly Early and Brian Edgington, were transfers from Coastal Carolina, Army and Elon?

Early pitched and did not give up an earned run in seven innings of work and Edgington struck out nine batters while going the distance.

“It’s part of the recruiting process now,” 10th-year Duke baseball coach Chris Pollard said after the final. “I think we made a mistake 18 months or two years ago not being more aggressive in the portal. After our ’20-21 ACC championship team, we got super young in 2022.

“A lot of teams, instead of going young, just went out and reloaded with older guys. It was a wake-up call. We’re still going to bring in recruits and give them an opportunity to play but we’ll still supplement with older guys and create some balance and experience.

“The transfer portal isn’t going to go away and it’s the teams that are going to adapt and use [the portal] right away who are going to have success. Look at what UVa did. All three guys who pitched against us were out of the portal. That’s the new world we’re in.”

“We’re going to return one of the better teams in the country next year,” Pollard said. “We’re going to be back and keep pounding on that door. One of these days, it will open.”  

Doug Doughty has been writing for more than 50 years starting as a high school student in Washington,...