Series Preview: WVU looks to extend winning streak vs. MTSU

By Ryan Decker

Hoping to build off last weekend’s sweep of Western Kentucky, the West Virginia Mountaineers (5-5) travel to Middle Tennessee State to take on the Blue Raiders (7-6).

Both teams enter the three-game weekend series playing good baseball. The Mountaineers have won three in a row, while MTSU has taken three of its last four.

A win for West Virginia Friday night puts WVU above .500 for the first time this season.

Kevin Brophy leads the way for the Mountaineers at the plate.

The sophomore is hitting at a team-best .355 clip and leads the Big 12 in home runs (6) and slugging percentage (.935).

Brophy is one of four Mountaineer hitters hitting above the .300 mark.

Last weekend not only got WVU as a collective unit on the right track but got two key players to heat up, as well.

Darius Hill collected seven hits against the Hilltoppers, including three for extra bases, raising his average 110 percentage points and jumping up to second in the conference in doubles with seven.

The WKU series was the first time this season Braden Zarbnisky had at-bats in consecutive games. He produced three multi-hit games, including going a perfect 5-for-5 on Saturday.

Shane Ennis (0.79) continues to be one of the most used, and most successful, members of the WVU pitching staff. He’s already appeared in six games, had a scoreless innings streak of 9.2 innings, and threw some important innings a week ago.

Ennis got the Mountaineers out of a jam in the seventh inning during last Saturday’s high-scoring affair.

Middle Tennessee State enters the weekend as one of the better teams, offensively, in Conference USA. The Blue Raiders are second in home run (15), and third in runs scored (85) and doubles (20). They also lead their conference in walks drawn (64) and stolen bases (21).

Leading the way at the plate is Aaron Auker, who has a team-best .347 average and 17 runs batted in. Possibly Middle Tennessee’s best all-around hitter is LA Woodard, who’s hitting at a .333 clip, leads the conference in stolen bases with nine, and is among the best in the conference in on-base percentage (.500) and runs scored (13).

Strikeouts are the Achilles heel of the Blue Raiders; three of their hitters rank in the top three of most strikeouts in C-USA.

While the Blue Raiders are one of the better hitting teams, MTSU is one of the worst teams in the conference on the mound.

The Blue Raiders have the highest team ERA (6.48), most hits allowed (124), runs allowed (91) and walks allowed (96), as well as having already hit 25 batters. All but three pitchers have an ERA over 4.00.

All three of this weekend’s starting pitchers for Jim McGuire’s club fall into that category. Two of Randy’s Mazey’s probably starters do, as well.

A pair of seniors, WVU’s BJ Myers (0-0, 4.02 ERA) and MTSU’s Jake Wyrick (0-0, 4.15) take the hill Friday. Alek Manoah (0-2, 6.75) and Carson Lester (1-1, 5.27) are scheduled to start Saturday. Kade Strowd (1-1, 2.57) gets his second weekend start in a row against Peyton Wigginton (1-1, 5.65)

The series begins Friday at 7 p.m. from Reese Smith Jr. Field. Saturday’s game is scheduled to start at 5 p.m., while first pitch of the series finale is set for 2 p.m. Sunday. 


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