The bullpen blues continued last weekend for the West Virginia baseball team. Mountaineer relief pitchers found just about every way to get into trouble on the mound while being swept in a three-game series against No. 18 Oklahoma State.
The Mountaineers, losers of seven straight, are currently just one game above .500 on the season as they sit at 16-15 and a lowly 2-6 inside Big 12 Conference play.
The bullpen has been a topic for discussion since the season first began. WVU blew a lead in the team’s first game against Louisville back in February that cost them a ballgame. It’s been an up and down ride since then.
WVU has run off its terrific starting rotation of Harrison Musgrave, Sean Carley and John Means all season long. The Mountaineers’ phenomenal efforts, plus some good hitting at the top of the lineup, had the Mountaineers soaring into April.
Since then, however, it has been a struggle for West Virginia. More and more pressure has been put on the starting pitchers in result of the shaky efforts of the back end.
“We refuse to abuse those starting pitchers because they are so good and so valuable,” said WVU head coach Randy Mazey. “We’re not going to run them into 150 pitches, so if the other team goes into it as getting their pitch count up, that’s probably the best way to play the Mountaineers right now.”
After surrendering a five-run ninth inning in an extra innings win over Baylor and letting a three-run lead slide in a loss at TCU, things didn’t get much better for the Mountaineer bullpen in Hawley Field’s inaugural Big 12 series last weekend.
Mountaineer relievers allowed eight runs in a 9-2 loss to Oklahoma State Saturday afternoon after failing to help out Friday’s starter Harrison Musgrave the night before.
Sunday’s final game of the series was a complete mess as West Virginia starter Michael Bennett lasted just 11 pitches and four hitters, recording just one out. WVU’s Zach Bargeron got out of the first inning, but only after four runs crossed the plate for the Cowboys as he served up three hits and a walk.
There was a bright spot Sunday, however, as Ryan Tezak regained his control of previous seasons to log six innings in relief in a Mountaineer 7-4 defeat.
“We’ve got a good staff. We’re a good team,” Carley said. “We just have to get out of this groove and come back and get it. We’re confident with where we are at, and I’m still confident with the guys that they’ve got. We’re going to be (fine).”
Overall, Musgrave, Carley and Means have allowed 48 runs (37 earned) in 135 innings this season for West Virginia. The bullpen has pitched 118 innings and has given up 87 runs.
A concerned Mazey offered a little bit of a silver lining.
“The good news is we threw strikes out of the bullpen,” he said. “That’s what we’ve been waiting to do.”
WVU looks to break out of its seven-game losing streak Tuesday night when the Mountaineers host Ohio State at 6 p.m.