WVU Back in California for Weekend

Randy Mazey knew it would take his West Virginia baseball team a little bit of time to get going this season.

Although the talent on the team is undeniable, the second-year head coach has been playing around with different lineups and is still trying to find the right roles for those on his pitching staff.

But with West Virginia taking on one of its toughest non-conference schedules in recent memory, there has not been much room for error. The Mountaineers (5-4) have been able to weather for the most part so far, and after dropping two of three in both of their first two series of the season, they won all three of their games in Myrtle Beach, S.C., last week and will look to keep that winning streak going when they travel to Riverside, Calif., to take on Sacramento State and UC Riverside.

It will be the second trip to California of the season for West Virginia, who traveled to San Diego State a few weeks ago.

"California baseball is really different than East coast baseball," Mazey said. "These guys play a lot of small ball and rely on being able to get people on and move those runners around in different ways. We're going to have to be able to adapt to their style a little better."

The one thing West Virginia should be able to rely on in order to help slow down its opponents this weekend is its pitching staff, especially its starting rotation. The tandem of Harrison Musgrave, Sean Carley and John Means has been extremely effective in the early portion of the season.

Mountaineer starting pitchers have a 1.79 earned run average through nine games, allowing just 11 earned runs in 55.1 innings pitched. While those three have been able to keep WVU in games, it's been when Mazey and his staff turn the game over to the bullpen where things have gotten a little tougher.

West Virginia had a seventh-inning lead in three of its four losses so far this season, and the bullpen has combined for a 3.34 ERA. But Mazey is seeing significant strides in turning those issues around after last week when WVU relievers gave up just one earned run in their five innings of work when they were called upon after all three Mountaineers starters threw at least seven innings.

"We knew heading into this season that it was probably going to take 10 or 15 games before we really started to get a good idea of who we were going to need to pitch in what roles when it came to our bullpen," Mazey said.

"We've been trying some different guys out in different spots and we're starting to figure out who belongs where and I think that's going to get a lot better down the road."

On the offensive end of things, the Mountaineers have been getting better at giving those pitchers better run support when they are able to go deep in games.

West Virginia has had at least 10 hits in seven of its nine games this season and is hitting nearly .300 as a team. There are seven players who are currently hitting at least .300, led by second baseman Billy Fleming who has recorded a hit in 16 of his 35 at bats (.457). Ryan McBroom, WVU's senior first baseman, is continuing where he left off last season, hitting .343 with three home runs and 14 runs batted in.

"I think we've been playing really well," Mazey said. "We're starting to swing the bats well and playing good defense, and when you have good starting pitching like we have those are the three things you'd like to be really good at.

"Our record just doesn't reflect how well we've been playing so far."

Sacramento State enters the game with a 7-6 record and boasts victories against two ranked teams, beating Texas A&M on Feb. 21 and then picking up a walk-off win in extra innings against No. 24 Fresno State in its most recent game.

UC Riverside is 6-6 and recently lost in 10 innings to UNLV.

The Mountaineers will start the weekend with a double header on Saturday, as Musgrave will have the start against Sacramento State and Carley will throw against UC Riverside. Means will start Sunday's series finale against the Highlanders.

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