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WVU Baseball Preview: NCAA Morgantown Regional

As the Mountaineers prepare to host their first regional since 1955, here’s everything you need to know about the teams we’ll be hosting this weekend.

Monongalia County Ballpark
John Lowe/The Daily Athenaeum

The NCAA Tournament is upon us, folks. With their impressive regular season and strong performance in the Big 12 Tournament, the Mountaineers have earned the right to host their first NCAA Regional since 1955!

Starting tomorrow: Fordham, Duke and Texas A&M will be in Morgantown looking to knock the hosts out of the Tournament. Each team features great pitching, so we’re likely to see a lot of low-scoring baseball this weekend. Here’s everything (and everyone) you need to know going in.

#15 West Virginia Mountaineers (#1 Seed)

37-20 (13-11 Big 12)

The Mountaineers had an outstanding season that far exceeded expectations following the departures of 4 pivotal guys last summer to the MLB Draft. The pitching staff has been the strong suit for WVU in 2019, as they boast one of the best starting rotations in the country, with a young, but impressive bullpen behind them.

The Leaders

  • Alek Manoah (SP) is the best pitcher in college baseball, I’m going to just declare it. The guy is an animal on the mound, and should be a Top 10 draft pick in next week’s MLB Draft. He’s gone 9-3 with a 1.85 ERA in 15 starts, thrown 102.1 innings and struck out 135 batters and limited batters to just a .186 average against him. He’ll hit the mound on Saturday in the game against either Duke or A&M.
  • Darius Hill (RF) has had a great senior season patrolling right field for the Mountaineers. He’s batted .304/.365/.511 with 23 doubles, 3 triples, 4 home runs and 40 RBI’s.
  • Nick Snyder (SP) has seemingly come out of nowhere this season. Relegated to midweek starting duties, Snyder made the most of it, and is now trusted with starting Friday night’s opener against Fordham. On the season, his numbers gives Manoah a run for his money: He’s gone 8-1 with a 2.71 ERA in 15 appearances (12 starts), thrown 63 innings and struck out 97 guys while limiting batters to a .174 average.
  • Brandon White (CF) is a defensive superstar. He’s been regularly featured on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays due to his acrobatic, adrenaline pumping plays in the outfield, and he made several outstanding catches in the Big 12 Tournament to help WVU get as far as they did. He batted near the bottom of the lineup for a majority of the season, but Coach Mazey has recently slid him up to the #2 spot where he’s had great success due to his plate vision and speed. On the season, he’s batting .282/.396/.319 with 29 RBI’s and 26 stolen bases. If he gets on first base — he’s gone.
  • Marques Inman (1B) is the most clutch batter WVU has in their lineup. In the home stretch of the season, Inman had clutch hit after clutch hit, propelling the Mountaineers to come-from-behind wins. The slugging first baseman hit .268/.344/.464 with 9 home runs and 41 RBI’s in 2019.

#19 Texas A&M Aggies (#2 Seed)

37-21-1 (16-13-1 SEC)

A perennial college baseball standout, the Aggies clinched their 13th consecutive bid to the NCAA Tournament with another impressive season out of the loaded Southeastern Conference. Coming into the regional, I’m not sure there is another team that Mountaineer fans dislike more than A&M, following the video of their team laughing as WVU was announced as the regional host.

The Aggies are a really good team. Their pitching staff is dominant, ranking in the Top 10 nationally in strikeouts per nine innings (2nd, 10.9), ERA (3rd, 3.04), WHIP (5th, 1.19), hits allowed per nine innings (9th, 7.40) and shutouts (10th, 6).

The Leaders

  • Asa Lacy (SP) is one of their two standout starters. He had a great year, going 7-4 with a 2.20 ERA in 14 starts. In 81.2 innings, he’s struck out 123 batters and held men to a .164 average against him. Very good. He’ll get the start against whoever A&M faces on Saturday.
  • John Doxakis (SP) is their other dominant starter. He went 7-3 with a 1.84 ERA in 15 starts. He threw 97.2 innings, striking out 106 guys and limiting batters to a .207 average. He’ll start Friday afternoon against Duke.
  • Braden Shewmake (SS) has led the Aggies from the leadoff spot. He hit .315/.376/.487 with 14 doubles, 4 triples, 6 home runs and 46 RBI’s, he also scored 42 runs. With those kind of power numbers, you wonder why he bats leadoff.
  • Bryce Blaum (2B) secures the other side of the infield for A&M. He hit .275/.374/.413 with 5 doubles, 2 triples, 7 homers and 27 RBI’s.

Duke Blue Devils (#3 Seed)

31-25 (15-15 ACC)

The Blue Devils also have a great pitching staff, but unlike WVU and A&M, Duke has 2 arms in the back of their bullpen that are absolutely dominant. If they have a lead going into the 8th and 9th inning, it will be hard-pressed to score runs off of Hunter Davis and Thomas Girard.

The Leaders

  • Ben Gross (SP) had an average year for the Blue Devils, but he was their best starter. He went 6-4 with a 4.41 ERA, striking out 64 guys in 63.1 innings and allowing batters to hit .229 against him.
  • Hunter Davis (RP) is one of those dominant arms out of the Duke ‘pen. He tossed 36.2 innings to a 1.47 ERA, 39 strikeouts, but also 23 walks. He doesn’t have great control, but he’s been effective at limiting damage in 2019.
  • Thomas Girard (Closer) was a perfect 9-for-9 on saves this season. He threw 43.2 innings, striking out 59 guys and limiting batters to a .169 average. Guy is good.
  • Michael Rothenberg (C) had a really big year for Duke. He hit .260/.458/.378 with 10 home runs and 49 RBI’s.

Fordham Rams (#4 Seed)

38-22 (15-9 A-10) A-10 Champion

The Fordham Rams have made it to the NCAA Tournament for the 1st time since 1998. The Rams had a really nice season, capped off by a 4-3 win in 12 innings against Dayton in the Atlantic 10 Championship game. What stands out to me about Fordham is their speed. They stole 177 bases this season... which is an insane amount of steals in just 60 games.

The Leaders

  • John Stankiewicz (SP) is having an absolutely amazing season on the bump for the Rams. He was recently named a Third-Team All-American due to his 8-3 record, a 1.21 ERA and 102 strikeouts in just 89.1 innings. He’s scheduled to start on Friday night against the Mountaineers.
  • Anthony Zimmerman (RP) is a solid arm out of the bullpen. He tossed an immaculate 0.76 ERA in 35.1 innings (26 appearances) with 54 strikeouts. He is very, very good.
  • Jake MacKenzie (SS) is an absolute speedster for the Rams. He hit .313/.365/.513 with 15 doubles, 6 triples, 3 homers, 28 RBI’s and 43 stolen bases. This dude can fly and is probably the most dangerous person in the Fordham lineup.
  • Alvin Melendez (RF) is another really fast, good player for Radford. He hit .275/.353/.500 with 10 doubles, 2 triples, 5 home runs and 29 RBI’s with another 35 stolen bases.

Regional Tournament Schedule

The Morgantown Regional will be played over 3, potentially 4 days, starting tomorrow. Here is the schedule:

Friday, May 31st, 2019

  • Game 1: #19 Texas A&M vs. Duke: 4PM EST
  • Game 2: #15 West Virginia vs. Fordham: 8PM ET

Saturday, June 1st, 2019

  • Game 3: Loser of Game 1 vs. Loser of Game 2: 2PM EST
  • Game 4: Winner of Game 1 vs. Winner of Game 2: 6PM EST

Sunday, June 2nd, 2019

  • Winner of Game 3 vs. Loser of Game 4: 12PM EST
  • Championship or Semi-Final*: 6PM EST

Monday, June 3rd, 2019 (if necessary)

  • Championship: 4PM EST

*Hypothetically, if WVU wins their first two games, they’ll be in the regional championship. Since this is a double-elimination tournament, they would have to be beaten in the Sunday night game as well as in the Monday matinee to be eliminated.

The remainder of the NCAA Tournament bracket can be found here.

This weekend is going to be a challenging one for the Mountaineers. We’re going to have to play extremely well to make it out of this region, but I think we have a good chance to move on.

Let’s go, Mountaineers!