The West Virginia University baseball team’s season did not get off to the start they envisioned. The Mountaineers, a preseason Top 25 team, was ravaged by COVID-19 and they have been struggling to find their footing early on in the season.
Last weekend, the Mountaineers hosted the Kansas Jayhawks in their conference opener. West Virginia was able to win the series, in large part because of their dominant pitching. In the series, Mountaineer’s starters Jackson Wolf, Adam Tulloch, and Ben Hampton threw a combined 16 innings, giving up only four runs, seven hits, five walks, and striking out 18. That kind of production is what the Mountaineers are looking for as they head into conference play and try and make a splash within the Big 12.
After his most recent start, Wolf who win Big 12 Pitcher of the Week said his mindset on the mound is what is able to help lead him towards success.
“I knew that no matter who steps in the box that my stuff is going to be better than them and keeping that confidence is going to play against anybody no matter who it is,” Wolf said after his start against Kansas.
This mindset is what the Mountaineers will need if they want to be able to survive their challenging Big 12 conference schedule. The Mountaineers will play four series against teams ranked inside of the Top 25, including a three game series at No. 16 Oklahoma State, a three game series at home against No. 4 Texas Tech, a three game series at home against No. 12 TCU, and a three game series at No. 5 Texas to end the season.
Obviously, this will be a steep hill to climb, playing 12 of their remaining 25 games against some of the top competition in the country. West Virginia, however, hopes that there deep pitching staff can help carry them in some of these series.
This season, the Mountaineers have had 20 different pitchers see game action this season. Hopefully, however some routine can be built for the Mountaineers and they hope they can get more quality innings from their staff as they begin to get the whole team healthy.
The Mountaineers success comes from their ability to throw strikes and get ahead of hitters. This year, the Mountaineers have walked 84 hitters, which ranks third best in the Big 12 and have only allowed 14 home runs which is fourth best in the Big 12. This ability to limit the number of baserunners and to keep the ball in the park should help the Mountaineers win games this season.
The only real problem for the Mountaineers this season has been its pitching late in games. West Virginia has given up 30 runs in games this year between the 7th and 9th innings. That is not a winning formula and in order to win conference games the back of the bullpen will have to step up and be solid.
As for now, the Mountaineers will travel to No. 16 Oklahoma State for a three game series starting Thursday and hope they can get similar performances from their starters that they got this past weekend against Kansas.
Photo by Dale Sparks, WVU