GRANVILLE, W.Va.–Coming off an average 2015 season, the West Virginia University baseball team looks to make its mark on the Big 12 this season.
The Mountaineers started off the 2015 campaign on the right foot, going 21-12, but they hit a rough patch and finished 6-15 to end the season with a 27-27 record.
In head coach Randy Mazey’s fourth season at the helm, WVU is ready to contend in the tough Big 12 and hopefully end an NCAA Tournament drought dating back to 1996.
The Mountaineers will be in their first full season at Monongalia County Ballpark and WVU has had plenty of time during the offseason and even some preseason time to become accustomed to its home field.
“Now we got a locker room that we didn’t have last year and a place to go after batting practice and get off our feet a little bit and prepare for the game,” Mazey said. “We have our team meals up there now. The schedule and the comfort level is way more conducive to that being a home field advantage.”
The Mountaineers are picked to finish sixth in the conference preseason coaches’ poll.
“I kind of enjoy it,” infielder Kyle Davis said. “I like being picked lower. That means no one expects us to do anything and when we do do something, it will shock everyone.”
WVU returns the majority of last season’s team minus shortstop Taylor Munden and second baseman Justin Fox and hopes for better results.
Munden led the Mountaineers with 11 home runs and was second in RBI with 31.
Fox batted a .273 clip with 17 doubles during his final season at WVU.
Coming off a strong freshman season, Davis will be a key contributor this season.
The 6-foot, 195-pound utility man was named to the Preseason All-America Third Team by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA).
Last season Davis batted a .353 clip with a team leading 17 doubles. He hit four home runs, 31 RBI and one triple.
Davis ranked third in the Big 12 Conference in batting and in doubles, fifth in hits and total bases and eighth in slugging percentage.
The Cincinnati native earned five All-America honors as a freshman last season. He was named to the Baseball America’s 2015 Freshman All-America Team, the NCBWA Freshman All-American First Team and the Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America First Team as selected by Collegiate Baseball newspaper.
Jackson Cramer returns for his junior season with the Mountaineers. Last season, the Coppell, Texas native hit .291with 15 doubles, one triple and eight home runs.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound first baseman hit 21 RBI. He had a .980 fielding percentage while committing seven errors.
Redshirt freshman Jimmy Galusky has the opportunity to make a difference this season. The Morgantown Post 2 star hit .558 with 54 RBIs and had 32 stolen bases in his final season at Preston High School.
After a year learning from Munden, Galusky will likely take over the reigns at shortstop sometime this season.
“He’s as much fun to watch play as anybody,” Mazey said. “I know it’s going to be great for the community and the people in the state of West Virginia to see him play because he’s a local guy and he’s really, really made the most out of his ability.”
The big story for WVU is the pitching staff.
“We just have so many pitchers that we can bring in at anytime who can come in and get the job done, “ left hander Ross Vance said. “And everyone in the dugout is going to feel like we got it. That is something that I feel like we haven’t had in the last couple of years.”
Vance leads the Mountaineers’ rotation, which returns four of their top starters from last season.
The 6-foot, 180-pound senior went 7-5 last season with a 3.26 Earned Run Average in 96.2 innings.
Junior Chad Donato led WVU with a 3.07 ERA. The 6-foot, 180-pound right-hander posted a 7-6 record with one save.
Sophomore BJ Myers showed a lot of promise at times last season. The 6-foot, 195-pound right-hander went 2-5 with a 3.82 ERA.
Sophomore Conner Dotson went 0-4 last season with a 2.88 ERA.
The Mountaineers’ pitching staff could be strengthened by the addition of freshman Michael Grove from Wheeling Park High School. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound right-hander hits 91-93 consistently on the radar gun. His fastball has topped 95mph.
With the talent on this team, WVU has the potential to prove the doubters wrong. The Mountaineers open the season on Friday at Charleston Southern.
2016 Big 12 Coaches Preseason Poll
|2.||Oklahoma State (3)||55|