It’s a common belief in baseball that pitching beats hitting. For West Virginia, the results from the mound could dictate one of the most anticipated seasons in program history.
WVU is comfortable with its three-man rotation heading into the season. Led by preseason All-American Harrison Musgrave, the Mountaineers have a true ace to lead a talented staff filled with both returners and newcomers.
“We have a lot of high expectations after last year,” Musgrave said. “I think with the players we have coming in and the returners, we should be able to do some pretty special things this year.”
Musgrave went 9-1 with a 2.17 ERA last season for WVU, earning the Big 12 Conference Pitcher of the Year Award. The Nutter Fort, W.Va., native pitched three complete games in the 2013 season and truly carried the rotation at times.
The success caught the eye of the Philadelphia Phillies who selected Musgrave with their 33rd round pick in the 2013 draft. Eyeing more collegiate success with the addition to a degree, he’ll return to Morgantown to lead the pitching staff again in 2014.
“(Musgrave) was so good last year,” said WVU head coach Randy Mazey. “When the Big 12 season came around it was almost like he threw a shutout every Friday night. That’s going to be so hard for him to duplicate. It’s hard to have that much success over and over again.”
Musgrave wasn’t the only pitcher drafted last season. Right-hander Sean Carley was selected in the 34th round by the San Diego Padres last summer. Carley will likely step into the No. 2 starter role for the Mountaineers this season after sitting out in 2013 due to NCAA transfer rules.
Carley began his college career at the Air Force Academy where he pitched 82.1 innings in 2012, striking out 62 hitting and posting a 3.94 ERA. It was the lowest earned-run average at Air Force since 1983.
Rounding out the rotation is scheduled to be junior John Means. The transfer from Fort Scott Community College had a successful first season pitching for WVU a year ago. His 4-4 record and 3.34 ERA ranked second on the team behind Musgrave.
West Virginia has the luxury of sending out two powerful left-handers in its rotation. All three starters bring plenty of experience and success to a season that promises perhaps the toughest schedule in team history.
“You’d like to line your top three pitchers up to pitch on the weekends against the conference teams, but if you look at our nonconference schedule those are all tough games, too,” Mazey said. “You need to win those games if you want to get an at-large bid.
“If we can get quality starts out of our three weekend guys and save those bullpen guys that would really help us have a good season.”
The Mountaineers came one game short of playing for a Big 12 title last season and bring big expectations into the new year. Not only is a conference title a team goal, but a lengthy postseason run is also on the team’s radar.
West Virginia will get its first shot at continuing the momentum built from last season on Friday when the Mountaineers travel to Charleston, S.C., for a three-game set. WVU will open its season against Louisville, a team that played in the College World Series in 2013.
Delaware and The Citadel will also play against the Mountaineers. Musgrave, Carley and Means are all scheduled to get their first starts of the season.