The Mountaineers, 1-2 after the season-opening series at North Florida, got solid production from the majority of the line-up and attempted eight steals. WVU managed just two stolen bases, but the proactive style from the staff is refreshing after years of ultra conservative play.
“I know I sound like a broken record when I say this, but baseball is about pitching and defense and timely hitting,” Mazey said after WVU salvaged the third game of the series in a 4-3 win.
West Virginia was actually in solid position to win the series and perhaps sweep it. An error at third base allowed UNF to blow open a one-run game in the 4-0 season-opening loss, and a leadoff walk to begin the ninth turned a 6-5 lead into a 7-6 defeat in game two when the Ospreys managed consecutive hits to plate the tying and winning runs.
“There is no way to go through an entire season without a game like this happening to you where you feel like you gave it away in the ninth inning,” Mazey said. “Maybe (it) was just our day for it to happen. Like I said, you have to pitch, play defense and get timely hits. We got the timely hits, but we had seven walks on the mound and three errors. It’s really hard to overcome that no matter who you play.”
Still, with five players hitting .357 or better and an average of seven players left on base per game, West Virginia is putting itself in position to win. It must handle the routine plays a bit more effectively, and not hurt itself with aspects like the seven walks – WVU had nine in the series overall – but there’s a bit to like early on for this team. The Mountaineers stayed out of double plays at just two while turning five of their own, and were able to limit runs against a program that’s at least formidable on offense.
“We are going to have to play defense,” Mazey said. “Our pitching isn’t conducive to strikeouts. … We got outstanding pitching, we only walked one guy and we played unbelievable defense in the middle of the field turning four double plays (in the win).We still have a lot to work on, but across the board it was an outstanding win.”
There really are no bad ones, especially for a program just beginning to build. The Mountaineers play a pair of games against Youngstown State in Winston-Salem, N.C. on Friday and Saturday before playing another Saturday game versus Wake Forest. WVU finishes the weekend quad with a second game against Wake Forest on Sunday. The latter pair of games figure to give WVU a chance to showcase itself against a team picked in the middle of the pack in a solid ACC led by powers North Carolina, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Virginia and Miami – all of which have been ranked in the top 20 in at least one major poll.
West Virginia started Corey Walter, Dan Dierdorff and Harrison Musgrave in the opening series. Walter and Dierdorff tallied ERAs of 1.93 and 2.84, and Musgrave will certainly slice a significant chunk out of his 9.00 ERA which was built largely on three bases on balls in just four innings. If the staff can keep holding the majority of foes to four to five runs, the Mountaineers should be in position to win games.
“We’re going to keep grinding and our guys are going to stay positive and hopefully be a good team at the end of the year,” Mazey said.