Encouraging, Yet Gapped, Pitching Results For WVU As It Heads To Virginia
As West Virginia heads to Virginia for its third road weekend series of the young baseball season, it will again rely on its trio of starters who have put up excellent numbers so far. Jackson Wolf, Ryan Bergert and Jake Carr have combined to go 4-1 so far this year, and Wolf’s spotless ERA leads the threesome’s combined figure of 1.09. They’ve shown outstanding control, walking just six batters while striking out 38, and their WHIP of 0.65 is a recipe for great success.
Along with righty Skylar Gonzalez, who has not allowed a run in two relief appearances totaling 6.1 innings, and closer Braden Zarbnisky, who has two saves in as many chances without a run allowed, the Mountaineers have shown a very promising start on the mound.
Another hidden group, though, might hold the key to the season. As West Virginia looks for a mid-week starter and mid-game relievers, several pitchers have auditioned for those jobs with some encouraging, albeit brief, appearances. Senior Dillon Meadows has been clean in two innings, allowing just one walk but no hits or runs. Sophomore Beau Lowery has yielded just one hit and no runs in two innings of work, and redshirt freshman Noah Short, despite giving up two hits in his inning appearance, didn’t give up any runs of his own.
That’s not all that’s encouraging. Sophomores Zach Ottinger and Madison Jeffery have a combined six innings on the hill, and while they have given up a combined 11 baserunners over that span, have turned many of them away, as each has been touched for just one earned run.
It hasn’t been all roses for the Mountaineer staff, though. A peppering of youngsters were roughed up against Canisius and Coastal Carolina, allowing 19 of the 31 runs scored against WVU this year. It is still early in the season, so it certainly isn’t time to give up on them, but as head coach Randy Mazey notes, there aren’t many chances for a player to show what he can do, especially when games are close, so unless West Virginia’s bats get going to provide some late inning opportunities, time is getting short before WVU opens league play. Single home games with Kent State and Liberty are sandwiched around a road trip to Mercer following this weekend’s action, but after that it’s right into Big 12 play with road trips to Texas Tech and Kansas.
The opposition in the Central Virginia Challenge is varied. William & Mary is jsut 3-5 on the season, but holds an RPI of 52. VCU, with an identical record to that of the Mountaineers at 5-3, is 205th. Richmond, at 2-6, is far down the rankings at 244. The Mountaineers sit at No. 139, but with some wins should bounce up due to the road venue for each of the games.
SEAMS AND BARRELS
WVU faces three different teams in three different parks on its scheduled weekend jaunt to the Central Virginia Challenge. The Mountaineers square off with VCU at The Diamond on Friday at 3:00 p.m., them move to Plumeri Park in Williamsburg for a 2:00 p.m. showdown with William & Mary. They then jump back to Pitt Field in Richmond to face the host Spiders on Sunday at noon.
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Braden Zarbnisky is tied for sixth nationally in hits with 17 through eight games. Of the players above him, none have played fewer games, and only two have played as few as eight. Victor Scott is likewise tied for sixth in triples with two.
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West Virginia always has a disproportionate number of road games early in the season, but with its first two Big 12 series on the road, the Mountaineers will play 17 of their first 20 games this year away from Monongalia County Ballpark.
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WVU has four starters hitting above .300, but just as with the pitching staff, there’s a huge gap between the top producers and the rest of the lineup. Zarbnisky is hitting .500, followed by Austin Davis (.346), Tyler Doanes (.310) and Matt McCormick (.310). Kevin Brophy is the sole starter in the two hundreds (.250).
AMong those with limited at-bats, Tyler DeMartino has two hits in six at bats (.333) and Chris Klein is 1-2 (.500).