West Virginia sees promise in young pitching staff early into season

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In baseball, it’s tough to win without good pitching. Fortunately for West Virginia baseball coach Randy Mazey, pitching has never been a problem. In his two years in charge of the program, he’s presided over one of the best staffs in Mountaineer history.

Behind top arms like Harrison Musgrave, John Means and Sean Carley, the Mountaineers have posted a team ERA under 4.00 for two consecutive years, the first time the program has achieved that feat in consecutive seasons since the early 1970s.

But this season, Mazey faces the challenge of the unknown. With the departure of 18 players after the 2014 season, a rebuilding project is underway in Morgantown — and it’s centered around a brand new pitching staff, a group of young arms that will make or break West Virginia’s chance of on-field success this year.

With Musgrave, Means, Carley and right-hander Corey Walter all matriculating to the pro ranks, the Mountaineers were left with a pitching staff with just 61.1 innings combined at the major college level — and 12 new hurlers who had never before worn blue and gold.

In West Virginia’s 10 games so far this season, four different starters have taken the ball, only one of whom had ever started a game for the Mountaineers. The aforementioned elder statesman would be senior lefty Ross Vance, easily West Virginia’s top returning pitcher — an All-Big 12 honorable mention in 2014, Vance’s seven starts accounted for the sum total of the entire staff coming into the year.

Vance will be relied upon to be the rock of this young staff, but so far a previously little-used sophomore has shone the brightest. Chad Donato made just four appearances in relief last season, but he’s taken a star turn in his first three starts of the season.

Donato has given up only three runs in 18 innings of work, backed by a stunning 12-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Donato was at his best on Sunday against a strong Illinois team, tossing eight innings with four hits, no walks, five strikeouts and two unearned runs.

“He was really good,” Mazey said. “He gave up a run in the first on a throwing error. If we throw that guy out, he likely could have thrown a complete game shutout. He was really good, that will help us down the road.”

On opening day at Clemson on February 13, Mazey handed the ball to freshman BJ Myers instead. A promising right-hander from Flower Mound, Texas, Myers threw five scoreless innings that evening, but has since suffered through rough patches in the next couple games, giving up seven runs in 10 innings total.

Despite a couple of tough nights for Myers, and a five-run outing from freshman Adam Keller in his first start, Mountaineer starters have put together a collective ERA of just 3.37. It’s been an encouraging beginning for the rotation despite the team’s 4-6 record overall — and Randy Mazey will have to hope that they continue to improve as the competition does.

This article was written by David Statman from West Virginia University / The Daily Athenaeum and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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