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West Virginia Baseball Preview: Mountaineers host Kent State in first home series of the season

The Mountaineers will host the Golden Flashes this weekend as they look to add some quality wins to their resume.

Tyler Doanes
John Lowe/The Daily Athenaeum

The Mountaineers (6-5) will play host to the Kent State Golden Flashes (4-7) this weekend in what will be their first home series of the season. Kent State, who made the NCAA Tournament last year after winning the MAC, has struggled a bit out of the gates so far this year, so they’ll be looking to turn it around in Morgantown.

Manoah had a very rough outing in his last start. He lasted just 2.0 innings against the rabid Oregon State Beavers lineup, giving up 7 runs (just 4 earned). However, he’s still putting up nice numbers outside of that: Through 14.1 innings, he’s struck out 24 guys and walked just 5. I’d be very afraid if I were the Kent State batters on Friday, Manoah is going to be angry about his last start and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have an amazing game on Friday.

Wollersheim has had some bad luck so far this season. He’s posted a sparkling 1.02 ERA through 17.2 innings, along with 20 strikeouts, but he’s just not getting any run support. If the Mountaineers can touch Wollersheim for 2-3 runs early in this one, Manoah should be able to slam the door on the Golden Flashes bats.

Jackson Wolf was able to go deep into his start last Saturday, finishing 7 full innings and allowing 4 earned runs en route to his first loss of the season. However, that’s exactly what Mazey needed him to do, as the Mountaineers bullpen had been strained by Manoah’s short start on Friday night. Wolf, who has thrown a team-leading 19.1 innings so far, will look to add another quality start this weekend.

John Matthews is getting beat up early this season. The junior right-hander has allowed 17 earned runs in just 15 innings - not good. The Mountaineers will look to hit him hard on Saturday night.

Kade Strowd, the reigning Big XII Pitcher of the Week, will look to continue his momentum into his Sunday matinee start. After blanking Oregon State through 6.1 innings, Strowd led the Mountaineers to a series salvaging victory in Corvallis, Oregon. He’s pitching very well through 3 starts, putting up 17.1 innings with 14 strikeouts. His 10 walks were predominantly from the OSU start, where he walked 9 but somehow didn’t allow any runs.

Schreiber has had a good season so far. His last start, against the University of Charlotte, he lasted just 4.1 innings, so he should be nice and fresh for this start against the Mountaineers.

Who to Watch For: West Virginia Mountaineers

Offensively, WVU has had quite a bit of trouble through the first 11 games. As a team, they are batting a putrid .194 with just 42 runs scored (3.81 runs per game). However, there are several guys who are carrying the offense right now:

  • Probably the biggest surprise in the early part of the season has been the emergence of second baseman Tyler Doanes. It’s clear now why Coach Randy Mazey inserted Doanes as the leadoff man; Doanes, a sophomore, is leading the team in batting average (.317), hits (13), and on base percentage (.417), while also being tied for the team lead with 6 runs scored and 2nd on the team with 4 steals.
  • Darius Hill (Sr., RF) is putting up another very good campaign in 2019. He’s 2nd on the team in batting average (.300) and leading the Mountaineers in doubles (4) and slugging percentage (.525), while also collecting 12 hits (2nd), 1 triple (T-1st) and 1 HR (T-2nd).
  • Ivan Gonzalez (Sr., C) is being the team leader that everyone expected him to be. Aside from his catching duties, where he has thrown out 6 baserunners already, Gonzalez is handling himself at plate very nicely, too. He’s batting .231 with a team-leading 2 HR’s and 8 RBI’s, while also walking 8 times, which is the 2nd highest amount on the team.

Aside from the starting corps of Manoah, Wolf and Strowd, the Mountaineers (very young) bullpen has been exceptional so far this year. It’s been impressive to see the fortitude these true freshmen relievers have displayed in pressure situations in the early part of this year:

  • Sam Kessler (1-0, 1.04 ERA) has been the non-so-secret weapon that Mazey has deployed at the back end of his bullpen all season long. Aside from his blip against Canisius on a frigid day, has been dominant. Through 8.2 innings, he has 2 saves, allowed just 1 earned run and has struck out 10 batters with just 2 free passes issued.
  • Beau Lowery (0-1, 1.42 ERA) has burst onto the scene his freshman year and hasn’t looked back. Mazey’s gone to him a team leading 5 times so far, signaling his apparent trust of the young right-hander. Lowery has tossed 6.1 innings, collected 1 save, struck out 7 and walked 3.
  • Ryan Bergert (0-0, 0.00 ERA) has been very impressive in the early season, throwing 5.0 scoreless innings. Most notably, he’s allowed just 1 baserunner (a hit) against Georgia Southern, while striking out 7 batters. He entered the game against #3 Oregon State on Saturday and struck out the side - no easy feat against that lineup.

Who to Watch for: Kent State Golden Flashes

KSU hasn’t been dominant offensively, tallying a below average batting line of .241 with 48 runs scored (4.36 runs per game). However, they’ve committed 19 errors as a team, so the Mountaineers may be able to capitalize on their rather lackadaisical defense.

  • Ben Carew (R. So., LF) has put up some impressive hitting stats for the Golden Flashes in 2019. He’s leading the team by a mile in batting average (.382), has stolen 5 bags and is tied for 2nd on the team with 7 RBI’s.
  • Josh Hollander (Sr., SS) is having some trouble on defense up the middle for KSU this year, picking up 3 errors already. However, offensively he’s batting a very respectable .308 with 6 runs scored.
  • Michael Turner (So., 1B) is slugging .360 with 3 doubles and 3 RBI’s. He also has good plate discipline, as he’s drawn 5 walks, good for 2nd on the squad.

KSU also has some good arms out the ‘pen, which we will likely see this weekend.

  • Zach Schultz (1-1, 1.04 ERA) is having a nice year so far; he’s thrown 8.2 innings with 11 strikeouts, but he does have some control issues, as he’s walked 7 batters.
  • Trevor Pittman (0-0, 2.25 ERA) is enjoying a good freshman year. Pittman has tossed 8.0 innings, allowing just 2 runs and striking out 7.
  • Jack Zimmerman (0-0, 1.17 ERA) is similar to our Braden Zarbnisky in that he can play both the outfield and jump on the mound to pitch effectively. He’s thrown 7.2 innings with 8 strikeouts and just 1 run allowed.

This should be a good matchup this weekend!

Let’s go, Mountaineers!