Interest grows as Mountaineers win Big 12 baseball games

MORGANTOWN — Dire predictions were all around the Big 12. West Virginia’s first year against the nationally-prominent conference baseball teams was expected to be a colossal failure.

[cleeng_content id="116292923" description="Read it now!" price="0.15" t="article"]In pre-season polls where the other eight coaches in the conference voted, West Virginia was seen as the last-place team on all the ballots.

These were the coaches from Oklahoma State, Texas, Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas Christian, et al. They weren’t being clannish, snobbish or condescending. West Virginia may have changed coaches and brought in over a dozen new players, but the Mountaineers hadn’t accomplished much when they were in the cold-weather Big East Conference.

The predictions haven’t come true.

Harrison Musgrave won a pair of 1-0 games as WVU moved to first place.

Harrison Musgrave won a pair of 1-0 games as WVU moved to first place.

After sweeping Kansas with all one-run wins on the weekend of April 26-28, West Virginia was tied for second place in the Big 12 standings with a 9-6 record. Only Oklahoma with its 10-5 conference record stood in front of the wave-making Monutaineers.

The three wins over Kansas at West Virginia’s adopted home field in Beckley had jolted the conference into abandoning the idea that finding the Mountaineers on the schedule was going to be a leisurely stroll through an all-winning weekend.

Before sweeping Kansas in a series of low-run games, West Virginia had just won two of three in Austin against Augie Garrido’s Texas Longhorns. Garrido is the nation’s winningest coach with over 1,700 career victories. He has won national championships at both Texas and Cal State Fullerton.

First-year head coach Randy Mazey is somewhat familiar with the Big 12, having come to Morgantown from the program at Texas Christian where he was an assistant.

Mazey may have brought with him a long list of new players, but his first Mountaineer team also has a solid core of returnees from the ordinary 2012 team.

One of the major reasons these Mountaineers have made the predictors blush has been sophomore pitcher Harrison Musgrave, a 6-foot-1, 205 left-hander from Bridgeport High.

Musgrave had Tommy John surgery and missed all of the 2012 season. He had appeared in 10 games as a freshman in 2011.

With a 7-1 record and 2.36 ERA in his 11 starts, Musgrave has become an All-America candidate with recent 1-0 wins over Texas and Kansas. Opposition batters have a .211 batting average against him.

When West Virginia has three-game, weekend series against Big 12 teams, the other two starting pitchers are sophomore John Means and junior Corey Walter.

Means is a first-year Mountaineer from Olathe, Kansas and Fort Scott CC, whose 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame has been imposing enough to help him to a 2.96 ERA and 3-2 record in nine starts. Opponents are batting only .233 against him.

Walter was a “weekend starter” in 2012. He’s from Wheeling Park High and is another 6-foot-3, 215-pound presence. In his eight starts, Walter has a 4-4 record, 4.08 ERA and a .284 batting average against by opponents.

As a staff, WVU’s pitchers have kept most teams under control and limited them to a .251 batting average.

Position players who are holdovers from the coach Greg Van Zant teams are six in number.

The starting catcher is Alan Filauro who came from Potomac State in Keyser by way of South Salem, NY. Filauro is a senior with four homers and a .275 batting average in all games before an important three-game set against league-leading Oklahoma.

Ryan McBroom is the first baseman. He’s a junior from Fredericksburg, Va. with a .267 average, 31 RBIs, and eight home runs. Sophomore Billy Fleming plays second, bats .288, and hails from Churchville, Pa.

All three starting outfielders were with the 2012 team.

Matt Frazer is from Nitro High and is a junior. He’s batting .243 and has 31 RBIs and six homers. Frazer is 6-foot-5 and weighs in at 265. Mazey’s center fielder is lithe Bobby Boyd, a sophomore from Silver Spring, Md. Boyd has a .323 average, one of the three highest on the team.

Brady Wilson is the senior right fielder from Frederick who played for the Winchester Royals in two different summers. Wilson bats .305 and has stolen 18 bases in 23 tries. He was injured during the summer of 2012.

WVU’s most-used designated hitter has been Jacob Rice, a first-year player from Tulsa and East Oklahoma State College. Rice has a .331 average and has been productive.

The other two new-to-the-program starters are shortstop Taylor Munden and third baseman Ryan Tuntland.

Munden is a sophomore from Lewisville, Texas and Marion Mason Military Institute. He is batting only .207. Tuntland is the team leader with his .344 average. A junior, Tuntland comes from Des Plaines, Illinois and Oakton CC.

In the last two weeks, when the Mountaineers were scratching to score any runs, their pitchers have provided the cover for the low-run efforts by getting shutouts (Musgrave) or limiting opponents to just two or three runs.

The Big 12 has nine baseball-playing schools. The team finishing in last place will not qualify for the conference tournament. The WVU schedule called for three games versus Oklahoma on May 3-5, then another three against Texas Christian on May 10-12 and the last of the conference games on May 16-18 versus Oklahoma State.

Musgrave has become the face of the Mountaineers and their pennant-challenging ways. He has been able to win even after the adversity of career-threatening Tommy John surgery. And his two 1-0, complete-game wins have brought the underdog team into contention in their first year in the Big 12 conference.

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