Sophomore lefty Harrison Musgrave (6-1, 2.70 ERA) once again takes the mound to start the series for WVU (24-18, 6-6). Harrison, the reigning National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) National Pitcher of the Week and Big 12 Pitcher of the Week, will attempt to extend WVU's streak of wins on Fridays to seven.
Kansas counters with senior right-hander Thomas Taylor (4-0, 2.47). Thomas is coming off a seven inning outing against Texas Tech where he allowed six hits and two runs while striking out five and walking two. For the season Taylor has allowed 59 hits in 62 innings, allowing 24 runs (17 earned) with 49 strikeouts and 17 walks. Batters are hitting .252 on the season against Taylor, who has also hit five batters this year.
"We've been playing O.K. on Friday," said Mazey, "We just have to find another pitcher that can go out and win his game. We have to have someone else step on the mound and control the game for us. It's really important if you win on Friday. It assures you of not getting swept. But we've lost the second game of the series every time we've won on Friday."
Dan Dierdorff (2-5, 4.78) is expected to get his second straight nod on Saturday for WVU. After a complete game win vs. Liberty on April 14th, in which he allowed five hits and no earned runs, Dierdorff got his first conference start of the season against Texas this past Saturday. Texas exploded for eight runs in the fourth and fifth innings in a 12-0 woodshedding that extended WVU's streak of Saturday losses to three. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.
Kansas sends lefty Wes Benjamin (4-4, 4.50) to the mound in the middle game. The sophomore from St. Charles, Ill., picked up a victory in his last outing, also against Texas Tech, chucking seven innings of one-run baseball, allowing six hits and two walks while striking out seven.
"Kansas can really hit and really pitch. They steal a lot of bases and are just a good all-around team. They might be the best team in the Big 12 this year. They have good #1 and #2 pitchers, but ironically, we've had some success against teams' #1 pitchers and closers this year. It seems like our approach at the plate is better against them," said Mazey.
WVU trots John Means (3-2, 3.05) out for his usual Sunday start against an undeclared Kansas starter. Means started and pitched 4 1/3 innings against Texas this past Saturday, allowing two hits and two runs, though only one was earned. Mazey replaced Means with Corey Walter after allowing a walk to lead off the fifth. Walter pitched the next 4 2/3 innings, giving up but one unearned run to pick up the victory in 10 innings at Texas. Game time is slated for 1:00 p.m.
"Corey was really good for us in the fall," said Coach Mazey. "He had a lot of velocity and was throwing the ball well. Then he missed a start with some soreness and hasn't come back with the same aggressiveness and velocity, so we moved him to the bullpen. A lot of times you can put a pitcher in the pen where he knows he's only going to throw an inning or two, and they can attack hitters a little more."
WVU has committed 63 errors this year, the most in the Big 12, but the Mountaineers have been able to overcome those deficiencies.
"I think it's weird to say it, but if we make 6 errors and win the game like we did [Wednesday night] then you've done some other things well," said Mazey. "In spite of that, we've managed to overcome it, which is the sign of a pretty good team."
Friday will be the first meeting between Kansas and West Virginia in baseball.
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WVU has won 15 of their last 20 and sit sixth in the Big 12 standings. The Mountaineers have now won four of their last five weekend series. Kansas is in second place in the Big 12 and have won three of their four Big 12 series and 10 of their last 15.
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WVU overcame six errors on Wednesday night to defeat Youngstown State 7-6. WVU also allowed six walks to the Penguins, who stranded 12 runners.
WVU pounded out 12 hits and stole four bases at YSU on a sloppy field in a game initially delayed by rain. Throws on balls in play were an adventure for both teams all evening, and poor footing lead to several misplays in the outfield that did not show up in the scorebook as errors.
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This will be Kansas' third road conference series of the season.
WVU will be playing only its second "home" conference series of the season. As WVU proceeds on its mission for a new stadium in Morgantown, WVU plays its home conference games in Charleston's Appalachian Power Park and Beckley's Epling Stadium. That extra travel, along with the extended Big 12 road trips, may have had an effect on the team.
"There are some times when I thought we were starting to wear down a little bit. When that happens you have to regroup," Mazey noted. "Sometimes if you can just sleep in your own bed for a night or two you can get refreshed, so we've tried to keep them at home as much as we can. We monitor [their academic] performance and get reports every week, and we audio tape the classes they miss and download them so they can review them while they are on the road."
This will be WVU's first ever trip to Epling and will be the only Big 12 Conference trip to Beckley for the Mountaineers. WVU will face Marshall in the rubber match of a three-game series in Beckley on April 30th.
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Kansas right-hander Jordan Piche' (5-1, 0.47 ERA)was named to the NCBWA Stopper of the Year midseason watch list this past Tuesday. A junior from Greely, Colo., Piche' has been one of the top relievers in the country this season with eight saves to go along with his five wins.
WVU's Pascal Paul (3-3, 2.67) picked up his sixth save of the season this past Sunday in the 10 inning victory at Texas. The juco transfer from Iowa Western C.C. finished 2012 with seven saves and a 2-0 record in helping the team estern to the 2012 Juco World Series Championship.
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West Virginia is ranked #98 in the latest projected RPI rankings. Kansas State is the highest rated Big 12 team at #28. The rest of the conference rankings includes Oklahoma (40), Texas (48), Kansas (49), Oklahoma State (66), Baylor (75), Texas Tech (109), TCU (129).
Oklahoma is ranked #14 in the latest NCBWA poll that was released on Monday. Oklahoma State checks in at #24. The latest USA Today coaches poll has the Sooners at #14 and the Cowboys at #25, with Kansas State receiving votes. Those who believe that current facilities for WVU baseball are adequate should check out the clubhouse facilities at Kansas.
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Ryan Tuntland had two hits and an RBI against Youngstown to raise his team leading batting average to .370. He is also the team leader in On Base Percentage at .457 and third on the team with 24 RBI.
Jacob Rice rattled three hits against Youngstown, including the game winner to raise his batting average to .342. His .390 On Base Percentage is second only to Tuntland's.
Brady Wilson leads WVU with 17 steals in 20 attempts. Michael Suter and Jordan Dreiling both have 14 stolen bases for Kansas.
Ryan McBroom and Matt Frazer are tied for the team RBI lead with 31. McBroom leads the team with eight homers while Frazer has six.
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Michael Suiter leads Kansas with a .354 batting average. He's 14-19 on stolen base attempts and is second on the team in OBP at .422.
Alex Deleon is second on the team with a .326 batting average and leads the team with five homers and 33 RBI.
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This weekend's series with Kansas will be video streamed online at WVUSports.com. Mountaineer Sports Network flagship station WAJR 1440 A< will broadcast the game along with select MSN affiliates. Kyle Wiggs will once again bring the play-by-play of Mountaineer baseball over the airwaves.
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Head Coach Ritch Price is in his ninth season at the helm for the Jayhawks. Kansas has won 30 or more games in seven of Price's nine seasons.
Kansas earned trips to the NCAA Regionals in 2006 and 2009 under Coach Price. The Jayhawks had been to the NCAA tournament twice in 100 previous seasons. The Jayhawks advanced to play North Carolina in the Super Regional in 2009 for the first time in school history.
Entering 2013 Price earned a collegiate record of 774-615-3 (.557) in 28 combined years at Kansas, Cal Poly, De Anza Community College and Menlo College.
Kansas has four players on the roster who hail from Hawaii. Two players, Ka'iana Eldredge and Michael Suiter hail from Hawaii power Punahou High School.