WVU Pitching: What’s Next At NCAA Regional?

WVU Pitching: What’s Next At NCAA Regional?

By: Kevin Kinder

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – When asked if he had a pitching plan for today’s 7:00 p.m. game against Wake Forest, West Virginia head coach Randy Mazey was straightforward.

WVU pitcher Michael Grove sports a futuristic-looking brace on his surgically-repaired arm

“We do not,” he said, but the three words were accompanied with a sly smile that would indicate a plan is in place, but that it wouldn’t be shared.

That’s common from Mazey, who protects his his hole cards as if they were diamonds. He took the unusual approach in the first game of the regional of using two of his weekend starters, sending BJ Myers out for his first relief appearance of the year for Alek Manoah. He also routinely hides the identity of his designated hitter, listing a pitcher on the lineup card he submits. (Against Maryland, it was Michael Grove, who was sporting a robo-brace that would make any Borg proud.)

But back to those three words. The best indicator that Mazey was running the old hidden-ball trick was the reaction of his son Weston, who sat on Dad’s lap throughout the post-game interview. When Mazey said “we do not” Weston spun around and gave his father a quizzical stare that was priceless.

The sly smile and reaction are the only tangible hints that Mazey does have a plan in place, and he does have several options for this evening’s contest.  Isaiah Kerns, who was brilliant in a complete-game three-hitter against Baylor in the Big 12 Championship, could get the ball. It could be Sam Kessler, who sports a 2.55 ERA and has a pair of starts this year. Kade Strowd, with seven starts among his 16 appearances, is also an option.

The good thing about Friday’s win was the fact that WVU didn’t dent its bullpen at all, leaving plenty of hurlers available for this game, and for the next game on Sunday. It won’t be a surprise to see a committee approach, but game circumstances, as they did on Friday, might dictate who gets the call at what point in the Saturday game. If WVU can get to the midway point of the Wake game with a lead or a tie, it might be time for Braden Zarbnisky and Jackson Sigman. A win on Saturday would be simply huge, giving WVU two tries to win the final game necessary to advance to a super regional.

There’s also the possibility that either Manoah or Myers could come back for an appearance in Sunday’s or Monday’s game, if the latter is necessary and the Mountaineers make it that far. Manoah threw 52 pitches on Friday, and has been a reliever as well as a starter, so there’s no worrying about his mindset or approach if he gets flipped. As for Myers? His outstanding relief effort against Maryland might put him in line for another one, especially if the regional is on the line, but he threw 25 more pitches than Manoah. Still, Friday’s showing snapped him out of a “lull” as Mazey described it, and there’s nothing to hold back at this point.

Mazey has never hesitated to bounce pitchers between roles. Think back to pitchers like Sean Carley, who made the move to help the Mountaineer staff, and the only thing that is certain that is nothing is set. Unless, of course, we can get a few words out of Weston.

WVU’s game time on Sunday could be noon (if it loses to Wake Forest) or at 5:00 p.m. if it defeats the Demon Deacons. A potential Monday game is set for a 7:00 p.m. start.