Making a Strong Case as Big 12's Best
Just where would the West Virginia University baseball team be sitting right now without sophomore pitcher Harrison Musgrave
That’s hard to gauge, for sure, but West Virginia coach Randy Mazey has a pretty good idea where the coterie of reporters hanging around the dugout after Saturday’s doubleheader split against TCU would be - probably covering a JV high school soccer game somewhere.
“Without Harrison Musgrave
, you guys (the media) are probably not talking to me right now,” Mazey joked.
Musgrave blanked the Horned Frogs on just three hits to go with a career-high 14 strikeouts in an important 2-0 Mountaineer victory on Saturday afternoon in Charleston. Musgrave’s win – his fourth in Big 12 play this year (all against opposing team’s No. 1 pitchers) keeps West Virginia (30-21, 12-8) in contention for the Big 12 regular season title.
What Musgrave did against TCU is exactly what he’s been doing all season long against Big 12 hitters. In last week’s no decision against 10th-ranked Oklahoma, the Bridgeport resident gave up two earned runs on four hits in seven innings of work. In a 1-0 complete-game win over Kansas on April 26, he scattered four hits and fanned five. A week before that against Texas ace Parker French, Musgrave was just a little better than his Longhorn counterpart, striking out nine and giving up six hits in a 1-0 complete-game shutout.
He has been named Big 12 pitcher of the week three times so far this year, with a fourth citation likely coming on Monday morning after his Saturday performance.
“You can just rewind and replay all of the interviews we do after the first game of every series because he was just as good in that first game, if not better,” Mazey told MSN’s Kyle Wiggs after Musgrave’s gem on Saturday against the Horned Frogs.
And get this … Musgrave didn’t even have his best stuff.
“I didn’t throw as hard as I usually do today, but I throw consistently harder than I did at the beginning (of the season),” said Musgrave.
Of the guys under consideration for pitcher of the year in the Big 12 this spring, no one can fully match what Musgrave has done against the rest of the conference – including Oklahoma’s Jonathan Gray, labeled by many as the top player in the major league draft coming up in June.
Here is what Musgrave has done is his six Big 12 starts with one remaining at Oklahoma State next weekend: a 4-0 record with an 0.77 ERA, 55 strikeouts, 12 walks and just 23 hits in 46.2 innings of work.
Gray, meanwhile, has also been outstanding (just not quite as good as Musgrave has been) with a 2-1 record and a 1.75 ERA with 55 strikeouts, nine walks and 26 hits in 46.1 innings.
You can also point to the excellent work Kansas reliever Jordan Piche’ has done heading into this weekend’s action with his 3-2 record, six saves and a miniscule 0.91 ERA in 14 appearances against Big 12 teams, but Piche’ stumbled badly in Kansas’ loss to Kansas State on Saturday by allowing five earned runs on five hits in three innings of relief work.
Gray, too, had a rougher than usual outing in the Bedlam Series against the Cowboys on Friday night, allowing three earned runs on six hits in five innings of work in absorbing his second loss of the season.
TCU’s Preston Morrison is having an exceptional year against Big 12 teams as well, winning three of his four decisions with a 1.66 ERA before he went head-to-head with Musgrave on Saturday. The tough-luck Morrison was almost as good as Musgrave, allowing two unearned runs on five hits in seven innings, but again, Musgrave was just a little better.
What Musgrave has done this year – 8-1 record, 2.14 ERA, 76 strikeouts, 27 walks, opponent batting average of .197 in 88.1 innings pitched – is reminiscent of the season Chris Enochs put together for the Mountaineers in 1997 when he posted a 12-1 record with a 3.03 ERA, 86 strikeouts, 21 walks and an opponent batting average of .257 in 95 innings pitched.
Enochs set a Big East record with eight regular season wins (against just one loss) in ‘97, finishing second in conference ERA at 2.76 while tossing just the third no-hitter in league history against Villanova. Enochs was named Big East pitcher of the year to edge out the much-higher profile Jason Grilli, who was the fourth player selected in the draft that year.
Enochs also wound up going in the first round (the 11th overall pick) based in part on his head-to-head performance against Grilli in the Big East tournament in Norwich, Conn., in front of a horde of major league scouts.
Musgrave could be positioning himself for a similar path in the coming weeks.
“I just hope it continues,” he says.
In the meantime, West Virginia continues to remain a big topic of conversation in the Big 12 with one weekend left in the regular season – thanks in large measure to the outstanding mound work being put forth by Harrison Musgrave
“It’s really special,” said Musgrave. “When I was growing up you never really heard about Mountaineer baseball, really - it maybe made the fifth page of my town paper every once in a while, but it feels good to get the support around the state; good crowds wherever we play and good competition. I never would have thought that it would ever be like this.”