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Freshman Branden Kline prepares for biggest stage of career

Had Branden Kline signed with the Boston Red Sox when he was drafted in the sixth round of last season's draft our of Thomas Johnson High, the Frederick native would likely be pitching in a small Class A town this week. Instead, Kline bypassed the money and came to Virginia, where he will take the mound on national television Monday at 7 p.m. in an elimination game against Oklahoma.

If the Cavaliers win, they clinch a bid to the College World Series -- an expectation entering the season. If Virginia loses, the season might be viewed as one of underachievement. No pressure on you, Branden.

"I have a ton of confidence in Branden Kline," Coach Brian O'Connor said. "I think the kid's pitched his heart out all year. To me, it doesn't matter whether he's a freshman or a senior. He's proven to us that he's very consistent and capable of doing the job."

Kline has shuffled between the bullpen and starting games throughout the season, although he's taken the mound in big games. He started against nationally ranked Coastal Carolina and Miami, and was called upon in last week's elimination game against St. John's.

It helps that Virginia's top two relievers are rested. Tyler Wilson has not been this series, so he could go a few innings of relief. Closer Kevin Arico did not pitch Sunday and would be ready for the ninth inning. That means if Kline gives the Cavaliers five strong innings, they could be in good shape to turn to the experienced relievers.

"I think he'll do the same Hultzen did last year," catcher Franco Valdes said, referencing Danny Hultzen's performances as a freshman last season. "He's a great player, has a great amount of heart out there and he'll give us his best."

By Zach Berman  |  June 14, 2010; 12:30 PM ET
 | Tags: Branden Kline, Brian O'Connor, Virginia baseball  
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