While the annual hoops hysteria in March is heating up over on the basketball court, the wheels West Virginia baseball’s 2020 season are officially turning.
After taking two wins and a loss in the Central Virginia Challenge over the weekend, the Mountaineers are off to a 7-4 start to the season — their best record through 11 games since 2017. They get the chance to build on that when they host Kent State at Monongalia County Ballpark on Wednesday in their second home game of the campaign.
West Virginia has gotten a massive boost from the return of outfielder Braden Zarbnisky after he missed last season due to an injury. While contributing to the Mountaineers from the field, the batter’s box and the pitcher’s mound, the redshirt senior is on top of almost every offensive statistic including batting average (.468), OPS (1.053) and slugging percentage (.553). His batting average also tops all hitters in the Big 12 through this point in the season.
The Mountaineer offense is truly able to do its damage on the basepaths. WVU is leading the Big 12 with 23 stolen bases, a post they held in their historic 2019 season. Zarbnisky ties shortstop Tevin Tucker as the leading stealer with 6 each so far, with Austin Davis and Tyler Doanes right behind with 5 and 4, respectively.
Davis, a sophomore outfielder, has flourished in his new role as a starter. He owns the second-highest batting average among regular starters (.346) and has given some key individual efforts en route to victories. Over the weekend, Davis went 4-for-5 with 3 runs, 2 RBI and 2 steals as the Mountaineers smashed Richmond, 13-1, on the road.
Tyler Stretchay is slated to get the start for West Virginia, his third of the season in four appearances. The freshman from Collegeville, Pennsylvania will look to improve on his ERA of 11.25 after racking that up in 4.0 innings pitched.
The all-time series between the Mountaineers and the Golden Flashes (6-4) goes in favor of Kent State, 20-14. The last time the two programs met was in 2019 when the Mountaineers got a three-game sweep in March.
Besides the win streak over the Golden Flashes, the Mountaineers have another trend they are hoping to keep alive: dating back to 2017, West Virginia has won 12 consecutive midweek nonconference matchups.
First pitch is set for 4 p.m. ET, and a live stream will be shown on WVUSports.com and MountaineerTV. Admission is free to fans, who will have the opportunity to play Baseball Bingo.