Means, a 6-3, 215-pound southpaw, threw six innings with no allowed runs against the Cowboys in the third game of pool play in last season's league tournament. Problem was, when Means exited as the teams headed to the bottom half of the fifth, five errors had put the Mountaineers in a 5-0 hole. The then-sophomore had allowed six hits and two walks, and deserved a far better fate. He got it, WVU scoring five in the bottom half to get Means off the hook for a potential loss.
West Virginia eventually won 6-5 behind Jacob Rice's single in the bottom of the 10th, putting the team within one game of playing for a Big 12 title. Now, Means returns to the hill for WVU on Sunday against The Citadel for first time since the OSU game with what figures to be an improved defense, but also a new battery mate in a catcher-to-be-named-later. With the graduation of Alan Filauro, Mazey has yet to name a starter. The lone returner is Max Nogay, who played in 20 games with eight starts last season. Nogay, 5-11, 210 lbs., hit just .182 last season, however, and lacks power with had just one extra base hit in 2013.
Another possibility is Cameron O'Brien, a junior transfer from Northeast Texas Community College. O'Brien, 6-0, 185 lbs., made 42 starts, with three homeruns and eight doubles. A Tulsa, Okla., native, O'Brien's father, Charlie, played 15 seasons as a catcher in Major League Baseball. The third option is Ray Guerrini. The freshman served as bullpen catcher while redshirting last season. Lauded for his defense by Mazey, the 6-0, 185-pounder has the ability to shut down an opposing running game and could serve as a late-game defensive option.
Means, in the third spot, might work with a mix of the three this season until a solid relationship is developed. The junior went 4-4 last season in 13 starts and ranked second in the rotation in ERA (3.34), hits allowed (72) and opponents batting average (.262). Means, below, discusses WVU's improved bullpen depth, his focus on form over the summer, velocity and control goals and jelling with several new players.
West Virginia will face No. 13 Louisville, which advanced to the College World Series last season, in the opener of the Charleston, S.C.-based tournament before drawing Delaware in the second game. The Cardinals lead the all-time series with WVU 14-6, with the last meeting coming when both were members of the Big East in 2012. UofL took a series at Hawley Field, winning the last two of the three-game set. Delaware returns seven starters off a 33-22 team from last season. The Blue Hens have made 15 NCAA Tournament appearances.