Few Words, Fewer Pitches For WVU Freshman Duo
West Virginia freshmen pitchers Ryan Bergert and Zach Ottinger combined to throw 143 pitches in the Mountaineers’ 2-0 win over Texas Tech on Saturday night. Their total word count in interviews after the game was probably less than that.
Afer allowing just one hit to a potent Red Raider lineup in five innings, Bergert analyzed his performance thusly:
“Got my fastball command early, and I attacked the zone with offspeed as well the second and third times through the lineup.”
Ottinger was only a bit more verbose.
“When I got out there I wanted to command my fastball to start out, and when I got ahead I wanted to work in my curveball. I mainly just threw fastballs and curveballs today.”
Bergert added that an earlier appearance against Tech, in which he pitched three innings without allowing a run, gave him a boost.
“Any outing when you go scoreless like that, it’s good for your confidence.”
After joking about the pair’s less than exuberant demeanor, head coach Randy Mazey was more effusive.
“I tel these guys all year long even if you don’t pitch all that much, you might have to pitch here with the season on the line, and they did that. What a great performance by both of them. Words can’t express how proud I am of these guys.”
Aiding in the combined showing of the duo (one hit, zero walks, seven strikeouts) was the different nature of their approaches and pitch locations.
“Those two guys are polar opposites as far as their stuff goes,” Mazey explained. “Bergert pitches up in the zone, and Otter (Ottinger) keeps it down. That’s a tough transition to face Bergert twice and Ottinger twice.”
Indeed, Bergert often started Tech hitters out with pitches high in the strike zone. That can be a recipe for disaster, especially against a squad that can drive the ball the way the Red Raiders can, but his varying location and mixing in of the curve kept them off balance. Ottinger then countered by working down, both inside and out. The combination was baffling for Tech, which had 13 flyball outs opposed to seven of the ground ball variety.
That the pair produced such a sterling performance against Tech had to be a surprise, but Mazey said he was confident in both.
“[Bergert’s] had one bad outing. Baylor beat him around pretty good. But it’s like when you have a math class and your professor lets you drop your lowest test score. If you drop the Baylor game, his numbers would be really, really good. He’s done that almost every time out except for once. I was very comfortable flipping him the ball.”
Bergert is now allowing an opposing batting average of .189, while Ottinger is right behind at .190.
* * * * * *
Brandon White continued to amaze in the field, and also displayed his catalyst abilities at the plate. His defensive contributions were obvious in both of WVU’s wins over Texas Tech, as he saved runs with three highlight reel catches while making the vast outfied reaches of Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark his personal fiefdom.
“The guy is the best centerfielder I have ever coached, and he is turning into a good offensive player too,” Mazey said. “I am super proud of him. He just changes the game. Every time he makes a catch, he saves runs. It’s just amazing, amazing, amazing to watch him play.
“You talk about his defense, but he quietly gets on base, and has 22 or 23 stolen bases. He had a big one tonight. He’s just a game changer.”
* * * * * *
Crowd-sourced observations have WVU in as a host for next weekend’s regional NCAA play, and head coach Randy Mazey, who typically doesn’t like to look too far ahead, was emphatic in what such a bid would mean for the Mountaineer program.
“You can’t even put into words what this would mean for our community, our school, our whole state. I’ve been running the numbers in my mind, and looking at my cellphone and watching the other scores. I’ve got to believe that we’re one of the best 16 teams in the country. I think it would be a shame if they didn’t put a regional in Morgantown.
“Hosting a regional changes the face of your entire program,” he continued. “That would be one of the best atmospheres in all of college baseball. The one thing about hosting a regional is that you get to play a four seed instead of a three seed. I’m not saying the four seed can’t beat you, but that helps too.”