Baseball Preview: Pitchers
With nine pitchers returning and seven newcomers joining the staff, pitching will be an area that the Mountaineers look to improve for the 2013 season. Junior Corey Walter served as the workhorse last season as a starter, and will likely provide the same this season.
Walter worked his way up to the role of Friday night starter and completed 2012 with a 6-5 record and a 4.58 ERA in 14 starts. Opponents batted .288 against the right-hander, as Walter struck out 41 in 98.1 innings.
“Corey Walter has been the most improved pitcher on our staff,” coach Randy Mazey says. “He has some experience here and has bought in to coach (Derek) Matlock’s pitching philosophy and exercises. He has added five or six miles per hour to his fastball and was touching 94 and 95 a lot in the fall. He just needs to win games and it’s one thing to have good stuff and another to win games on weekends in the Big 12.”
He pitched three complete games and went into the eighth inning in his last six starts of the season. During that span, Walter had a 3.38 ERA and struck out 23 in 48.0 innings, holding opponents to a .264 batting average. He finished the season ranked No. 2 in the Big East in complete games and No. 6 in innings pitched.
After missing 2012 recovering from Tommy John surgery, sophomore lefty Harrison Musgrave is looking to regain his freshman form. In 2010, Musgrave went 4-2 with a 4.61 ERA in 10 starts, including two complete games and a shutout. He struck out 41 in 56.2 innings pitched, holding opponents to a .253 batting average.
“We didn’t know much about Harrison, but he has a really good arm,” Mazey says. “He needs to have more command of his pitches and keep improving on them. He still has a pretty good ceiling and it is up to Harrison on how good he can be this year. If he makes another jump from where he is now, then he could be a quality Big 12 starter.”
Junior Ryan Tezak’s 1.35 ERA was the best on the staff, and he struck out 24 batters in 26.2 innings to help the right-hander post a 3-3 record with six saves.
“He’s a really valuable guy out of the bullpen,” Mazey says. “His arm is durable and he has a strikeout pitch that he can go to when he needs it. What really impressed me this fall was his command with the fastball. He’s a great worker, a great kid and you know what you’re getting when he comes into the game. He’s always going to give you a chance to win and will make the other team beat him, which is a good quality for a pitcher.”
Junior Josh Harlow served as the setup specialist, making 15 appearances, and his three wins out of the bullpen tied him with Tezak for the most on the team. Harlow stuck out 27 batters in 41.0 innings with a 4.83 ERA.
“Josh got a lot better this fall and is not afraid to go after hitters and challenge them. His slider got better and he showed he can be a strike-thrower,” Mazey says. “These guys don’t have a history of throwing strikes, but they have bought in to our philosophy in attacking the strike zone. He is very capable of going out there for a three or four inning stretch and shutting a team down.”
Senior right-hander Dan Dierdorff and junior southpaw Marshall Thompson made up the other two pieces of the starting rotation in 2012. Dierdorff started 10 games, while also providing valuable relief in six games. He finished the season with a 4-6 record and a 6.10 ERA in 79.2 innings pitched with a team-leading 61 strikeouts.
“Dan is just steady and consistent,” Mazey says. “Every day he goes out there you know you’re going to have a chance to win because he throws strikes. He mixes pitches and will always keep you in the game. I foresee him pitching a lot of innings for us.”
Thompson went 3-7 with a 6.51 ERA in 13 starts, striking out 39 in 65.0 innings of work.
“Marshall had a good fall. He was a weekend starter last year and we’re trying to be real careful with his arm,” Mazey says. “He can come in as a left-versus-left matchup guy, or he has also shown that he is capable of going deep into the game.”
Junior left-hander Zach Bargeron served as a midweek starter and finished with a 2-2 record and 4.35 ERA in 39.1 innings. In his final start of the season against La Salle, Bargeron allowed one run on three hits in a complete game with four strikeouts.
Other returners out of the bullpen include sophomore right-hander Tad Dipzinski and junior right-hander Jared Hill.
“All I knew about Jared Hill coming in was based on his numbers from the summer and last season,” Mazey says. “He has made some great strides and changed his arm angle, and it looks like he can come in for a hitter when you need a ground ball. He has changed his body, has been better in the weight room and eats better. He has done everything we have asked of him and I hope to see him out there.”
Four transfers lead the newcomers; juniors Sean Carley (RHP), Corey Holmes (RHP) and Pascal Paul (RHP) and sophomore John Means (LHP).
Carley will sit out 2013 after transferring from Air Force, where he was the 2012 Mountain West Conference Preseason Pitcher of the Year.
The hard-throwing Holmes spent two injury-ridden seasons at McLennan Community College.
“Corey has a tremendous arm and is capable of pitching in the 90s every time he throws a fastball,” Mazey says. “His fastball has great life on it, he has a terrific breaking ball and a great changeup. He needs to attack hitters and not be too fine. His pace gets a little erratic at times, but from a quality arm standpoint, he’s one of the better arms.”
Paul helped lead Iowa Western Community College to a JUCO World Series Championship in 2012. Paul led the team with seven saves to go with a 2-0 record, 2.53 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 32 innings.
“Pascal has experience at a high level after winning a junior college national championship,” Mazey says. “He is a sinker, slider guy and isn’t going to strike many people out, but if he is giving up a lot of grounds ball when he comes in, it’s a good day for Pascal. He has a chance to be a real workhorse out of the bullpen for us.”
Means went unbeaten in eight appearances with a 6-0 record and a 1.14 ERA at Fort Scott Community College.
“He’ll have a definite opportunity to go out and be a weekend starter,” Mazey says. “He has three quality pitches and has had success at junior college. He was tired in the fall coming off a long spring and a long summer, so I don’t think we’ve seen the best of what he has to offer. If he comes back well-rested, he could be a guy that starts on the weekend.”
Pitchers from the high school ranks are right-handers Brock Dykxhoorn, Ryan Hostrander and Michael Teagle.
Dykxhoorn was selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 20th round of the 2012 MLB Draft after being a member of Team Canada Junior National Team.
“Brock came in really highly touted and was a good draft pick by Cincinnati,” Mazey says. “He needs to make some improvements on his off-speed pitches, but he is a really smart and understands how to pitch to hitters.”
Hostrander was a four-year starter at Williamsport Area High, finishing with a 1.19 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 53 innings in 2012.
“Ryan gives you a different look. He throws from different arm slots and his legs and arms are flying everywhere and all of the sudden the ball is on top of you,” Mazey says. “He doesn’t have great stuff, but he is really hard to hit. If you had to choose one or the other you would go with the guy harder to hit.”
Teagle was the District 14-4A Newcomer of the Year at Kingwood Park High, going 7-0 with a 2.06 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 55 innings last season.
While there are question marks surrounding the staff, the veteran leadership mixed with junior college and freshman talent should lead to a successful year on the mound for the Mountaineers.
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