One of the top arms in Virginia decided to stay in state and pitch for the flagship university. Class of 2013 right-hander Connor Jones, who is ranked the No. 6 prospect in the state by Perfect Game, saw his stock rise over the summer and it culminated with a commitment to the Cavaliers.
Jones returned to UVa over the weekend.
A junior at Great Bridge High School, Jones starred for one of the most prestigious travel baseball teams in the country, Canes Baseball, this summer. His talents were put on display in front of some of the top schools and professional scouts in the country.
Virginia, Virginia Tech, and South Carolina were the three programs making the strongest push but it was an easy decision for Jones, who committed over the summer.
“I always knew that Virginia was one of the top programs in the country, so I had interest there,” Jones said. “Virginia Tech as the first school to officially start recruiting me. Virginia just happened really quick. Coach Kuhn came down to see me pitch when we had a tournament at Wake Forest and they offered me that night.”
Jones traveled 150 or so miles from his hometown of Chesapeake, Va. for unofficial visits twice before making his verbal pledge to head coach Brian O’Connor and his staff.
The Virginia offer came after a quality performance at a tournament at Wake Forest in which pitching coach Karl Kuhn was in attendance. Jones said in that outing, he mixed his pitches well, fielded his position, and was aggressive with opposing hitters.
“It is an atmosphere that just feels like a family up there,” Jones said. “It was always very welcoming and I felt like I belong there. Everything you need as a baseball player is right there at the facility. It just makes us all one big family.”
Jones, who attended his first football game since committing earlier this season against Duke, continued to get even better as the summer progressed. His strong performances continued in Fort Myers, Fla. in the top national tournament in the fall.
“I thought I did well in Fort Myers,” Jones said. “Our team didn’t do as well as we had hoped but I thought I was one of the better pitchers down there. I was really pretty happy with how I played down there.”
Jones pitched four innings allowing one earned run on two hits and two walks over four innings. He struck out seven hitters and topped out on the radar gun at 88 mph. He attributed a lot of the improvement in his game to the development of a slider. What was once an average curve ball, Jones saw the pitch transform in to a plus slider.
“I never learned how to exactly throw one but my curve ball just kind of morphed into a slider,” Jones said. “It just kind of clicked one day. The slider just kind of came to be.”
Even though he still has two more high school seasons on the bump before enrolling, Jones already looks like a Virginia pitcher. He has the same setup and motion that many of the Cavalier arms sport on their current roster.
Jones, who says two of his pitching influences are Jake Peavy and Jon Lester, has spent the last two years working with Canes Baseball pitching coach Jamie Evans.
“I knew a lot about the pitching program and there’s no where better to go as a pitcher, in my eyes,” Jones said of the Virginia reputation. “I’ve heard that a lot that people tell me I look like a Virginia pitcher but I started pitching like that before UVA ever saw me. Coach Evans and coach Kuhn work with the same philosophy. It was what both coaches instruct, so it was kind of a perfect fit.”
Jones was back on campus over the weekend to be a part of the Virginia-Virginia Tech rivalry for the first time. While disappointed in the result, he felt the passion of Hoo Nation as one of 61,114 in the stands at Scott Stadium.
“The atmosphere was absolutely electric,” Jones said. “It was really a great place to be. There isn’t another place I would have rather been than Charlottesville for that game. The fans, students, and alumni were awesome.”
Jones led his Great Bridge HS team to the state championship last season picking up the victory against previously unbeaten South County. He allowed only two earned runs that game scattering six hits.
His sophomore season, Jones was 8-1 with a 2.65 earned run average and won three playoff games.
According to Perfect Game, the Cavaliers currently have six commitments in the 2013 class. Joining Jones are RHP Alec Bettinger (Woodbridge/CD Hylton), OF Tyler Allen (Powhatan/Powhatan), LHP Austin Nicely (Grottoes/Spotswood), RHP Jesse Roth (Oradell, N.J./Horace Mann), and catcher Matthew Thaiss (Jackson, N.J./Jackson Memorial).