A week after opening the 2014 campaign, the West Virginia baseball team will be headed west for a three-game weekend series with San Diego State beginning Friday.
The Mountaineers began the season in Charleston, S.C., in an extra-innings loss to No. 8 Louisville. WVU dropped a second game to Delaware the next day before earning its first victory of the year, beating tournament host The Citadel.
Despite the 1-2 record, West Virginia swung the bats effectively. The team gathered double-digit hits in all three games and were guided by two home runs by senior first baseman Ryan McBroom.
Junior second baseman Billy Fleming, who is best known for his slick defensive play, went 6-for-10 last week and leads West Virginia with a .600 batting average, including a four-hit performance in the win over The Citadel.
The Mountaineers also pitched well in Charleston. The starting rotation comprised of juniors Harrison Musgrave, Sean Carley and John Means allowed just five runs in 17.1 innings pitched.
Waiting in Southern California for the Mountaineers this weekend is San Diego State. The Aztecs are 3-1 on the young season with two wins over San Jose State and Loyola Marymount.
“The first challenge is to go across the country,” said head coach Randy Mazey. “Those games are probably going to carry us to after midnight on East Coast time. We’re trying to prepare for that and have some late practices here.”
San Diego State is led by catcher Brad Haynal who is hitting .364 with a home run and six RBI. Haynal is one of six Aztecs hitters who will carry a .300 average or better into the series. Perhaps the team’s most dangerous hitter is third baseman Ty France who hit .317 with five home runs and 36 RBIs in his freshman year a season ago.
The Aztecs are managed by Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn. The member of the professional baseball 3,000-hit club is in his 12th season as San Diego State’s head coach.
“They have always had some great players at San Diego State,” Mazey said. “Tony Gwynn is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. He’s obviously one of the greatest hitters to ever live.”
The Mountaineers will face some difficult pitching for a second weekend to start the season. Friday’s starter for SDSU is junior Michael RoBards who went 4-1 last season with an ERA of 3.58 in 55.1 innings pitched. Sophomore Bubba Derby will take the hill Saturday night.
Derby, San Diego State’s closer last season, was selected as a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American in 2013 and led the Mountain West Conference with 10 saves. The hard-throwing right hander has joined the rotation in 2014.
“Any time you challenge our team offensively, they usually respond,” Mazey said. “ I feel really good about it. The better pitcher we face, the better we do. I’m excited about the challenge.”
West Virginia will again send Musgrave, Carley and Means to the mound this weekend. The Mountaineers and Aztecs will open the series Friday night at Tony Gwynn Stadium.