To say the West Virginia University baseball team is exceeding expectations is a huge understatement. WVU has won 18 of its last 24 games to sit in contention for the Big 12 title as well as a possible berth in the NCAA Tournament.
WVU will have its chance to prove it belongs in the conversation for a Big 12 title when it takes the field in game one of a three game series tonight against No. 10 Oklahoma.
West Virginia trails first-place Oklahoma by just one game.
"It is a huge weekend," WVU second baseman Billy Fleming said. "Oklahoma has great coaches, and a great team in the Big 12. We are going to come out and play."
"It's going to be a tough one, but we have battled all year and we have won every Friday night game in the Big 12," WVU outfielder Brady Wilson stated. "Our confidence is sky high right now. We are really looking forward to the challenge."
Oklahoma will be the strongest team on West Virginia's schedule this season. The Sooners' roster features likely stars of tomorrow in Major League baseball.
"They can really pitch, they can really hit and they get really play defense," coach Randy Mazey said. "It's another one of those series where we have to be sharp in all three areas of baseball to try and win the series."
"We are going to try and beat them," Fleming stated. "We don't care that there are MLB guys and first round guys. That's fine. We are going to go out there and play as hard as we can and give them a run for their money."
Oklahoma is home to the potential first overall pick in the Major League baseball draft. Jonathan Gray is 8-1 with a 1.10 ERA in 11 starts. Gray has two complete games and has struck out 98 in 81.2 innings of work. In the national rankings, Gray is No. 2 in hits allowed per nine innings (4.63), third in strikeouts and ninth in ERA.
WVU also has its own lethal weapon on the mound. Harrison Musgrave has pitched back-to-back complete game shutouts. He has not allowed a run in 25 innings.
Musgrave is 7-1 with a 2.36 ERA in 11 starts. Currently he is riding a six-game winning streak and has yet to lose in Big 12 play, posting a 4-0 record. In conference play, he has a 0.97 ERA, striking out 36 in 37.0 innings and has allowed just four earned runs.
"Who knows when there guy is going to pitch and we don't know when Harrison is going to go just yet," Mazey says. "Both of those guys are fun to watch, so if you're a fan of Big 12 baseball or baseball in general, this will be a really good weekend to come out and watch."
Gray threatens to post triple-digits on the radar gun. That kind of velocity on his fastball has helped his ERA remain low. That is not intimidating the Mountaineers. Instead, it is fueling their fire and desire to find success against him.
"The guy they are throwing on Friday hits 98 to 99 miles per hour," Fleming said. "As a hitter, I am really pumped for it. I am excited."
WVU received votes in the most recent national rankings. A solid showing against No. 10 Oklahoma will help the Mountaineers show the nation they are not to be excluded from the conversation of NCAA tournament teams.
"I feel like so far we have shown people what we are capable of," Wilson said. "I feel like we have definitely surprised a lot of people. Now that we are winning we have to keep winning. We can't fall down now. A lot of teams have won big games and then they will flop. What we have to do is keep our composure. We have to grind it out and get at least two wins."
Game one of the three-game series will be played tonight at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston. First pitch is set for 6:30. Game two will be played Saturday at 4 p.m. with the series finale set for 1 p.m. on Sunday.