|Junior lefthander Harrison Musgrave will be on the hill for West Virginia in game one of this weekend's series against 18th-ranked Oklahoma State.
|All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks photo
In the movie Airplane, Lloyd Bridges’ character Steve McCroskey famously said that he picked the wrong time to stop sniffing glue. Well, it looks like the Mountaineer baseball team has picked the wrong time to face 18th-ranked Oklahoma State.
The Cowboys, making their first trip to Morgantown, have won six out of their last seven games, including taking the last two against TCU in late March and winning two of three against 23rd-ranked Texas Tech last weekend.
Oklahoma State (23-10, 5-4) also owns a 6-5 victory over 24th-ranked San Diego State back on March 7 and boasts eight players on its current roster that have previously been drafted by major league teams.
“They play really hard, they’re motivated and they’ve got a great coaching staff over there,” said West Virginia coach Randy Mazey of second-year coach Josh Holliday’s Cowboy staff. “It’s almost like a Dream Team of coaches. Rob Walton, their pitching coach, has head coaching experience. Marty Lees is one of my best friends and he’s won a couple of national championships as an assistant at Oregon State.”
West Virginia (16-12, 2-3) has hit a speed bump in its season, losing all three at TCU last weekend before dropping an 8-4 decision at Penn State earlier this week.
The Mountaineers jumped out to an early lead against the Nittany Lions but was not able to get the midweek pitching performance they needed to pull out a victory.
“I talk to these guys all the time about failure and about how to overcome failure,” said Mazey. “Our definition of failure is the opportunity to start over.”
WVU clearly needs to hit the reset button after putting forth one of its poorest performances of the year up at State College. Penn State hitters pounded out 13 hits and drew four walks against six different Mountaineer pitchers.
“One of the most important games last season was the game we played at Ohio State. We lost 9-0, but that was the turning point in our season because of some of the things we learned and I think (Penn State) has a chance to be a turning point in our season,” said Mazey.
In many instances, West Virginia batters hit the ball hard against the Lions, but instead of getting on top of the ball the Mountaineers produced long fly balls that were consumed by Penn State’s large ballpark.
“It was a big park, the wind was blowing in and we’ve only got one guy on the team who is capable of hitting home runs consistently (senior first baseman Ryan McBroom
),” said Mazey. “So long fly balls, no matter how hard you hit them, equate to outs so you have to make an adjustment.”
Mazey said his coaching staff has been using the last three or four games as a teaching tool.
“As much as you coach your guys and tell them things, they need to experience some failure sometimes so they don’t rest on their laurels too much and realize that they have to get back to fundamental baseball,” he said. “When you play bad you’re supposed to lose.”
The great thing about baseball, however, is that a team is only one good pitching matchup away from stopping a losing streak and the Mountaineers will have a good one out on the hill for game one in junior Harrison Musgrave
Musgrave is 3-1 this season with a 1.96 ERA and is 16-4 overall for his career heading into this weekend. Last year’s Big 12 pitcher of the year won nine games and posted a 2.17 ERA in 95.1 innings pitched in 2013.
“I’m looking forward to Harrison pitching again,” said Mazey. “I wish that guy could pitch every game, but when he pitches it seems like our guys play with a little bit more confidence and I look forward to a really competitive series this weekend.”
Junior righthander Sean Carley
(5-1, 2.92 ERA) is expected to get the baseball in game two and junior lefthander John Means
(4-1, 1.72 ERA) should be on the mound for game three.
Oklahoma State is expected to counter with junior righthander Jon Perrin (3-2, 2.84 ERA) in game one and freshman righthander Tyler Buffett (2-1, 2.37 ERA) in game two. The Cowboys have not announced a starter for Sunday.
“They’re very, very well coached so we’re going to have to play really well to have a chance to win a couple of these,” said Mazey.
Oklahoma State is just the third college baseball program with a national championship in its history (1959) to play a game in Morgantown. The other two are Wake Forest (national title in 1955) and Ohio State (1966).
Texas will be the fourth when the Longhorns come to town in early May.
Friday’s game is scheduled to get underway at 6 p.m. with Saturday’s contest slated for a 4 p.m. start, following football’s Gold-Blue Spring Game over at Milan Puskar Stadium. The three-game series will conclude with Sunday’s 1 p.m. game, but weather issues today could alter this weekend’s schedule.