Chillin' at the APP
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The weather may be cold, but West Virginia University's baseball presence in Charleston is just heating up.
The Mountaineers host their inaugural three-game Big 12 home series over the next three days, taking on Texas Tech at Appalachian Power Park. First pitch for tonight's game is scheduled for 6:30, followed by games at 4 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.
It will be the first of three Big 12 three-game sets scheduled for Power Park this season, with preseason Big 12 No. 1 Oklahoma due in May 3-5 and No. 2 TCU scheduled for May 10-12.
This weekend's series with Texas Tech (15-8 overall, 2-1 in Big 12 play) comes on the heels of WVU's 8-0 loss to Marshall Tuesday night at the APP.
"Even though we didn't play well, it was good experience for us going into this weekend," said first-year WVU coach Randy Mazey. "It was valuable to get down here and play a game on this field, even though the outcome wasn't in our favor."
It isn't shaping up as an easy weekend for the Mountaineers, who are 8-12 overall and 1-2 in the Big 12 play opening conference play last weekend at Kansas State.
West Virginia scored a 13-2 seven-inning mercy-rule win in the opener a week ago against K-State behind the pitching of Harrison Musgrave, a junior left-hander from Bridgeport who is 2-1 with a 5.16 ERA in five starts, with 17 strikeouts in 292/3 innings. He'll get the ball tonight against Texas Tech.
"He's been giving us a chance to win," Mazey said of Musgrave. "He has all three pitches, and he had all three going at Kansas State, took a shutout into the seventh inning."
The Mountaineers will go with another state product, Wheeling Park's Corey Walter, in Saturday's game. The right-handed junior is 1-2, 5.60 in four starts.
Sophomore lefty John Means, who'll start Sunday's game, has been WVU's most effective hurler to date, going 2-1 with a 1.85 ERA in four starts.
Texas Tech, which opened Big 12 play last weekend by taking two out of three games at home against Texas, will go with sophomore right-hander Dominic Moreno in the series opener tonight. Moreno (2-1, 3.58) pitched seven innings in a combined 1-0 shutout of the Longhorns last Friday.
The Red Raiders will show their ace in Saturday's game, when 6-foot 1, 195-pound junior right-hander Trey Masek takes the mound against the Mountaineers. Masek, rated by Baseball America as the Big 12's No. 2 Major League draft prospect and a former Texas high school player of the year, is 3-0 with a microscopic 0.22 ERA in five starts. His 40 strikeouts in 40 innings are both tops in the conference, and opposing batters are hitting .158 against him.
Sunday's scheduled starter for Texas Tech is freshman righty Matt Withrow (2-1, 5.73).
"Texas Tech has three really good pitchers, probably the best combination of a starting three in the league," Mazey said.
West Virginia ranks ninth (last) in the Big 12 with a team ERA of 4.22, and the Mountaineers are also at the bottom of the conference heap in fielding percentage (.965).
The WVU offense, though, has been cranking, as its .301 team batting average - third best in the league - attests.
Junior designated hitter Matt Frazer, who is familiar with Appalachian Power Park from his days at Nitro High, provides the most punch in the WVU lineup and is hitting .314 with team highs of four home runs and 19 RBIs in 20 games.
With the weather forecast calling for temperatures in the 30s and 40s this weekend, Mazey isn't expecting a lot of long balls, defying the APP's reputation as a hitters' ballpark.
"As cold as it is, the ball shouldn't carry that well. It's hard to hit on a cold day," Mazey said. "The advantage lies with the pitcher."
WVU's table-setters in front of Frazer include sophomore outfielder Bobby Boyd, whose .407 batting average and .467 on-base percentage rank among the leaders in the Big 12, and junior outfielder Jacob Rice, who's hitting .398.
Texas Tech comes to town after defeating No. 20 Arizona State 8-7 Tuesday in walk-off fashion, literally - two bases-loaded walks won it in the bottom of the ninth.
The Red Raiders are led offensively by junior outfielder Devon Conley, who has 21 RBIs in 23 games. Sophomore outfielder Brett Bell leads the Big 12 with 12 stolen bases.
While the expected cold weather might keep the crowds down, Mazey is hoping energy provided by Mountaineer fans will keep Appalachian Power Park warm.
"We're all thrilled to death to be here," Mazey said after holding a workout at the APP Friday night. "We're looking forward to good crowds and good energy."
Tickets at the gate are priced at $9 for reserved seats and $7 for general admission.
Reach Nick Scala at 304-348-7947 or firstname.lastname@example.org.