The end of the football season brought unexpected changes to the Wahoos’ program. Bronco Mendenhall announced on December 2 that he was stepping down as head coach, and eight days later Tony Elliott was hired to replace him.
Some coaches might have balked at the prospect of going through spring practice without one of their team’s best quarterbacks, but Elliott wholeheartedly supported Woolfolk’s move to baseball.
“I love baseball,” Elliott said in January, “and I also love dual-sport athletes … The biggest thing is if a guy can help one of the other teams in the athletic department, I’m all for it.”
Woolfolk said he learned from the Benedictines when he was recruited that many schools “didn’t want me to play both sports. Just to see that [Elliott] Knowing the situation and then supporting the situation, it was amazing to know that I could still live both of my dreams.
The Virginia baseball team spent most of the season nationally, finishing with a 39-19 record. Fellow 5-foot-11 Woolfolk Dylan Bowers tied the most appearances (28) and posted a 3-0 record and a 2.87 earned run average. Opponents batted just .211 against Woolfolk, who batted 55 in 37.2 innings and was named a Freshman All-American by the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.
“It’s definitely amazing,” Woolfolk said of the award, “especially on a team like this where you have talent everywhere. We had a lot of newbies this year who added to this team. It felt really good, but I know I’m not done yet. It’s a great award, but I feel I can do a lot more.”
— Virginia Baseball (@UVABaseball) June 4, 2022
When he joined O’Connor’s program mid-year, Woolfolk said he wasn’t sure what to expect. “When I arrived on day one, I didn’t know if everyone would like me, and I didn’t know if I would fit in as a baseball player. But as the season progressed, everyone became like my brothers.”
Two games stand out for Woolfolk. The first was a loss to Penn State on March 6 at Disharoon Park, where he took on starter Brandon Neeck in the sixth inning.
“I guess my adrenaline was soaring,” said Woolfolk, whose classmates on the team shortstop include Griff O’Ferrall, a graduate of St. Christopher’s School with whom he played when he was a child. Speaking to O’Ferrall, Woolfolk said, “I thought, ‘I’m going to hit 97 [miles per hour] today. I feel it.’ And then I went out and hit 98. Before that, I was 91, 92, 93, maybe 94, and that was a big step for me in college baseball.”
Then there was the Cavaliers’ April 23 win over ACC rivals North Carolina at Disharoon Park. Virginia rallied for seven runs in the bottom of the 10ththe final four come with a walk-off grand slam from fifth-year one of Woolfolk’s mentors, Devin Ortiz.
“Devin was the first person that ever spoke to me on the baseball team,” Woolfolk said. “Obviously Griffin O’Ferrall and I know each other [from high school]but other than that, Devin was always the first person to speak to me.”
It was not uncommon to see UVA football players and coaches at Disharoon Park when Woolfolk was fielding.
“When a kid can do that, you want to cheer them on,” said Taylor Lamb, Virginia’s new quarterbacks coach. “I enjoyed watching him pitch when I came to the baseball games.”
Like Elliott, Lamb supported Woolfolk’s desire to play two sports in college.
“We challenge high school kids to play them all,” Lamb said. “Play as much sport as you can and he has an opportunity to pursue that. Its expiration date hasn’t passed in baseball or football. It’s a cool deal to see. It’s hard now. We told him that. This isn’t just for a regular Joe. Being a football player at the University of Virginia isn’t for a normal Joe, but being a football and baseball player, being a double scholar-athlete here at UVA, it’s tough. But he knows that and he’s managed that transition back to football really well.”