West Virginia baseball embarks on their 2020 campaign on Friday when they face the Jacksonville Dolphins in a three-game series with the hopes of building on their historic run a year ago. The action gets underway at 6 p.m. at Jacksonville’s John Sessions Stadium.
It’s hard to deny the progress made by West Virginia baseball during the tenure of Randy Mazey.
The skipper’s seventh season in Morgantown was a benchmark both for his own career and the program as a whole. Not only did the Mountaineers bring the NCAA tournament to Monongalia County Ballpark for the first time in its short history, but much of the program’s record book was rewritten in the process.
As it typically goes in college sports, many of the key players on that squad earned the chance to play pro baseball — a record number of eight, to be exact.
With that information alone, a hangover from last season’s success could seem plausible — but Mazey and his squad have no plans to slow down in the program’s 125th season. 12 Mountaineers are returning for this season, including three of their top four base-stealers in Tyler Doanes, Tevin Tucker and Austin Davis, who combined for 53 of the WVU’s conference-leading 98 steals.
The infielder Doanes is one of the marquee Mountaineers coming back along with Paul McIntosh. The duo were named to this year’s preseason All-Big 12 squad after Doanes led the team with a .316 batting average and McIntosh hit a team-high 10 home runs. Interestingly enough, Doanes is still in the midst of a 14-game hit streak which goes back to last season.
While three members of last year’s pitching rotation went on to the pros, senior Jackson Wolf will get the start against Jacksonville, with sophomore Ryan Bergert and freshman Jake Carr following behind the next two contests. Wolf finished last season with a 5.17 ERA and a 2-4 record in 69.2 innings pitched.
Around their returners, the Mountaineers brought in the 21st-ranked recruiting class nationally according to Perfect Game. The aforementioned Carr is joined by nine additional pitchers, four outfielders, two infielders and a catcher. On top of the freshman newcomers, WVU welcomes in a trio of junior college additions.
Braden Zarbnisky re-joins the Mountaineers after missing 2019 due to an injury. A Swiss army knife of sorts, he was a key contributor for West Virginia between 2016 and 2018 and is currently the program’s 4th all-time steals leader, 5th all-time in strikeouts per nine innings and 8th all-time in saves.
West Virginia’s season opener against Jacksonville will be the seventh meeting between the two programs. The series is even at three wins each, with the last series in 2018 going in the Dolphins’ favor, 2-1. Fans can listen to the game live on JUDolphins.com.