West Virginia baseball has officially opened their season and earned their first home win after defeating the Canisius Golden Griffins at Monongalia Ballpark on Wednesday.
The Mountaineers (3-1, 0-0 Big 12) have the privilege of keeping that home record undefeated for over two weeks as they head to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to square off in the Brittain Resorts Invitational before facing Coastal Carolina in nearby Conway. When this slate is wrapped up, they head north for a three-game road trip in Virginia.
West Virginia has a gamut of four opponents in the South Carolina competition, starting with Kennesaw State, followed by Saint Joseph’s and Illinois before heading to Conway to face CCU.
WVU skipper Randy Mazey debuted a nearly all-new weekend rotation in their season-opening series against Jacksonville after the departure of Alek Manoah, Nick Snyder and Kade Strowd to the pros. Jackson Wolf, who was included in the 2019 rotation as the Saturday starter, now mans the Friday spot while Ryan Bergert and Jake Carr toss on Saturday and Sunday. The trio struck out a total of 13 batters in their debuts, allowing just 5 total runs and amassing a pair of wins for a 2-0 combined record.
The Mountaineers will likely stick with this rotation heading into their second weekend series, although the starter for their fourth game is yet to be announced.
West Virginia’s offense has gotten off to a strong start, especially from the newest additions to the batting order. Braden Zarbnisky made his return to the lineup after missing all of 2019 with an injury, and he hasn’t missed a beat. With a .529 batting average through four games, the junior leads the batting order off and leads the team in at-bats (17), hits (9), RBIs (4) and total bases (12) while also putting in 1.2 innings on the mound. Austin Davis has also been a pleasant surprise for the Mountaineers, leading the team with a .545 batting average while adding 3 RBIs of his own in his first year as a regular starter.
Like last season’s squad, speed is the name of the game for the Mountaineers. WVU has stolen 14 bases so far this year which ranks them seventh nationally, while they are also the only team with as many steals that hasn’t yet been caught stealing. While Zarbnisky and Davis are big contributors to the effort with 3 each, sophomore shortstop Tevin Tucker has stolen a team-leading 5 bases after stealing 19 a year ago.
Newcomers have been essential to the Mountaineers’ effort so far. While Carr and Tyler Stretchay have already logged starts on the mound this year, first baseman Ryan McCormick and center fielder Victor Scott have also started in the batting order. McCormick is third on the team so far with a .375 order, trailing just Davis and Zarbnisky.
West Virginia and Kennesaw State enter the invitational with 3-1 records, and will face one another to open the competition on Friday. The Mountaineers then face the Saint Joseph’s Hawks (1-3) on Saturday and the Illinois Fighting Illini (1-2) on Sunday before heading to nearby Conway to face Coastal Carolina (2-1) later that day. Fans can catch a live stream of the final contest on the Chanticleer Sports Network when action gets underway at 4 p.m. on Sunday.