After their four-game stint in the Palmetto State, West Virginia baseball hits the road once again this weekend for a trio of road games against VCU, William & Mary and Richmond as part of the Central Virginia Challenge.
The Mountaineers (5-3) have matched their start through eight from a season ago behind major contributions from a wide range of returning players, and just like a season ago, it starts with their speed. Shortstop Tevin Tucker leads the Big 12 on the basepaths with 6 steals, while the team as a whole is just one steal away from the top of the conference.
Just behind Tucker in that stat is Braden Zarbnisky, who has stolen 3 bases so far — but steals are far from the only contribution “Zarb” has made for the Mountaineers this year. In his return to the lineup after missing 2019, the jack-of-all-trades leads his team in batting average (.500), hits (17), on-base percentage (.528), OPS (1.116) and runs (7). While he is currently top-ten nationally in total hits, he’s added a pair of saves in both of his appearances on the mound.
West Virginia begins their run at the Central Virginia Challenge against VCU with junior lefty Jackson Wolf on the mound. He’s maintained a 2-0 record with a 0.00 ERA and 16 strikeouts through his two starts this season.
Here’s a look at the ballclubs West Virginia will face this weekend:
- Record: 5-3
- Top hitter: Hogan Brown (.448 AVG, 5 RBI, 1 HR)
- Probable pitcher: Mason Delane (1.69 ERA, 0-1 W-L, 5.1 IP)
- Location: The Diamond (Richmond, Va.)
- Time: 3 p.m.
West Virginia starts its trip through the Commonwealth against VCU, whose record at this point in the season matches that of the Mountaineers.
The bats have come alive in the beginning of the season for the Rams, as they haven’t put up fewer than 4 runs in any game so far. In that phase, it all starts with Hogan Brown, who has largely started at center field. While he has been a steady contributor at the plate so far for the Rams, his peak so far came in the series finale against Sacred Heart when he went 3-for-4 with a home run and 3 RBIs.
The Rams have trotted out a three-man rotation so far this year, and it appears that Mason Delane will take the mound against the Mountaineers. The freshman hasn’t stayed on the mound for more than 2.2 innings in either of his starts, racking up 3 strikeouts in that span. That’s not out of the norm for this squad, which heavily relies on its bullpen to keep runs off the board late — which it does well.
William & Mary Tribe
- Record: 3-5
- Top hitter: Brandon Raquet (.367 AVG, 9 RBI, 3 HR)
- Probable pitcher: Justin Pearson (10.12 ERA, 0-1 W-L, 8.0 IP)
- Location: Plumeri Park (Williamsburg, Va.)
- Time: 2 p.m.
The Tribe have gotten off to a slow start in 2020, opening the season by getting sweeped by East Carolina in three games followed by a 5-0 shutout at Duke. Since then, though, they got a sweep back for themselves against Fairleigh Dickinson before falling to another ACC opponent in Virginia.
Through the difficult schedule so far, offense has been hard to come by. As a team, it took the Tribe until their fifth game to hit over .200, while taking 54 strikeouts in their first four games. Senior Brandon Raquet seemed to be one of the few bright spots offensively, as he has been one of the few to put together a batting average over .300 — but it will take more than his bat to get some scores this weekend.
Junior lefty Justin Pearson has manned the second spot in the rotation. Like his teammates in the batter’s box, the hurler struggled in his debut against East Carolina, giving up 8 hits and 6 runs before getting taken out after 66 pitches. He picked up his play in the following matchup, lasting 80 pitches and punching out 4 batters at the plate, while giving up 4 hits and 3 runs.
- Record: 2-6
- Top hitter: Jordan Schulefand (.345 AVG, 4 RBI, 1 HR)
- Probable pitcher: Jacob Marcus (4.35 ERA, 0-1 W-L, 10.1 IP)
- Location: Pitt Field (Richmond, Va.)
- Time: Noon
It’s too early in the season to tell if Richmond will is as good (or bad) as their record says. It’s not easy opening a season up against the No. 4 Georgia Bulldogs, and expectedly, they fell in all three matchups — two of which were decided by just a run. They followed that up by taking a 12-4 thrashing from James Madison before taking two wins in a three-game series with Lehigh. To contrast with their season openers, however, the Spiders took a major loss at home to Coppin State.
Offense hasn’t been a problem for Richmond. Before the Coppin State defeat, they had yet to put up fewer than 3 runs in a game (they lost 11-1 to CSU). The duo of Daniel Little and Jordan Schulefand have been integral in that effort, batting .348 and .345 respectively while combining for 11 runs and 6 RBIs.
Much of the Spiders’ issues have come in the field. As the third man in the rotation, the Mountaineers will likely face Jacob Marcus, who has spent the most time on the mound so far. He has yet to pitch in a win, although questions could be asked about the contribution of the Spiders’ bullpen so far.
Where to watch
Both West Virginia’s Friday matchup with VCU and their Sunday matchup with Richmond will be shown on ESPN+. To catch the Saturday game against William & Mary, fans can head to WVUSports.com.