MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - It's easy to look at the box scores of West Virginia's recent games and gather that the Mountaineer offense has improved.
WVU has won 13 of its last 18, while also reaching double figures in hits in 13 of those contests.
But according to first-year pitching coach Dave Serrano's philosophy, the Mountaineers wouldn't win those games without solid pitching.
"I'm a firm believer, and not because I'm on that side of the ball, that your team is only as good as your pitching staff," said Serrano. "To win big, you have to win with pitching and defense."
These words of wisdom come from a coach who has reached the pinnacle of college baseball. In 2004, Serrano won the College World Series as an assistant coach at Cal State Fullerton. Then as a head coach, he returned to Omaha in 2007 with UC Irvine and in 2009 with Cal State Fullerton, winning national coach of the year honors in 2007.
Now as an assistant on Randy Mazey's staff, Serrano says he pushes WVU's pitchers to dig deep and improve every aspect on their game.
"Anyone that knows me realizes it's never good enough. That's just my personality," said Serrano. "They can never reach a high enough pinnacle for my satisfaction, and I think they’d welcome that out of me. They want to be pushed."
The Mountaineer pitching staff has reflected that mentality as the season progresses.
Through the first 24 games of the season, WVU had a 5.09 ERA, but during this 13-5 stretch in April and May, that ERA is down to 3.87.
The Mountaineers still rank in the bottom half of the Big 12 in team ERA, but Serrano has noticed that the staff has taken steps in the right direction.
"We’re making a climb," said Serrano. "We’re not there yet. Hopefully, as the season closes and we get into the postseason and the Big 12 tournament, the pitching staff continues to flourish, because that will take us the farthest way.”
Before they start thinking about postseason play, the Mountaineers still have nine games remaining on their conference schedule. They'll play a Big 12 series on the road for the first time in more than a month when they meet Kansas this weekend. That series begins Friday night at 7 p.m. ET.
You can see more from this interview with Serrano on the WVU Coaches Show. This week's episode airs Friday at 5 p.m. on AT&T SportsNet and Saturday morning on your local West Virginia Nexstar station. Check your local listings for airtime.