WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — If West Virginia coach Randy Mazey knows who is getting the start on the mound Friday against No.3 seed Maryland (37-21), he’s certainly not revealing that information yet.
“Our plan is that we have no plan,” Mazey said when asked about the starting rotation for the regional. “We just go with the guy we feel is the best matchup for the team we have in front of us. Those guys know that. Since it’s been basically a M.A.S.H. unit the last half of the season, we’ve asked guys to start games on short notice and little preparation. It’s unbelievable how they’ve responded to that.”
D1 Baseball’s Aaron Fit reported Wednesday that West Virginia ace Michael Grove (3-1, 2.87) is out for the postseason, leaving the Mountaineer rotation a little thin.
The ‘Eers turned to freshman right hander Isaiah Kearns in the Big 12 opener against Baylor, and he was masterful, spinning an eight-inning complete game allowing just three hits and one run while striking out six in a 11-1 victory. Prior to that outing, Kearns had just 1.1 innings of action against Big 12 competition.
B.J. Myers (4-4, 4.15) led WV in starts (15) this season, followed by Grove and Alex Manoah (1-1, 3.10) with nine each. Kade Stowd (1-3, 5.49) and Conner Dotson (3-3, 5,53) both are likely to figure in the weekend rotation for Mazey.
“The ones who are remaining are feeling pretty good. Every time these pitchers have been challenged, they have stepped up,” Mazey said. “Most of the kids we’ll trot out there on the mound this weekend were finishing up their high school baseball season this time last year.”
Senior reliever Jackson Sigman (5-4, 5.20) will be utilized early and often. He’s appeared in 35 of the Mountaineers 58 games this season, and has nearly a 3-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio.
“We’ve been working all year. Once you’ve reached this moment, it means a lot,” Sigman said “You have to win three, maybe four games to move on. We’ve been working hard all this week to be in a position to win three or four games."
The Mountaineers (34-24) are making their first trip to a NCAA Regional since 1996, as they earned the first at-large bid in the school’s history.
“We’re happy to be here but you guys have no idea how happy we are to be here. This is the first at-large bid in 125 years of West Virginia Baseball and it is super exciting for our kids right now to be in the NCAA postseason,” Mazey said. “With me I’ve got our entire senior class here, Jackson (Cramer) and Jackson (Sigman). From day one we talked about getting to this point in the season for these two guys so they can experience this before they move on with their lives and I’m very happy for them that they’ll get a chance to see what NCAA Tournament Baseball is all about.”
Senior first baseman Jackson Cramer qualifies at the most dangerous bat in the Mountaineer dugout. He’s batting .279 on the season, with a team-leading 10 home runs to go along with 43 RBIs.
“I thought we would make it the past two years. I guess it was that feeling of finally being able to get here after not being able to make it in the past couple of year,” Cramer said. “ I knew we would get here once the season started. In the past, we would just get too close and you can’t describe it so that motivates us every day to get here and I believed we could get here from the get go.”
West Virginia starts play at 2 p.m. Friday against Maryland at David F. Couch Ballpark. The Terps bested WV 7-6 on April 11.
“I haven’t watched much film yet but we’ve already played them before,” Cramer said, “It was a good game as far as the teams are concerned and we are excited to play them again. I definitely think that playing them earlier in the year helped us out a bit and we will be ready for them on Friday.”
The winner of that contest will advance to face Saturday the winner of Wake Forest and UMBC, which follows at 7 p.m. Friday.