Losing Streak Dooms Mountaineer Season

The Mountaineer baseball team began the season with some promise, but fell apart in Big East Conference play to record a losing season.

Over the past couple of seasons, West Virginia has fielded excellent pitching staffs that have kept them in most games.

Unfortunately, WVU's offense couldn't muster enough consistent production to take advantage of many stellar pitching performances, and as a result the Mountaineers never seriously threatened to make a post season run.

This year, things seemed to be different out of the gate. The pitching staff, led by Billy Biggs and Clayton Ewen, got off to a good start, and Mountaineer bats woke up against Western Carolina and Akron to get WVU above the .500 mark.

That success was tempered as WVU dropped games to Buffalo, Niagara and Kent State, then suffered perhaps their most embarrassing loss of the season to Georgetown, which went 9-47 on the season and managed to win only two games in the Big East.

Then, for all practical purposes, WVU's postseason hopes were dashed when they lost eight consecutive conference games in April. What went wrong?

As in past seasons, the Mountaineer attack simply didn't measure up to the levels of most of their Big East foes. Only Seton Hall, with 259, scored fewer runs that WVU's 275. West Virginia hit only .295 as a team (8th in the conference) and had only 118 extra base hits in 50 games.

WVU couldn't manufacture many runs either. West Virginia managed only 53 stolen bases, and despite 48 sacrifices couldn't manage to move enough runners around or get enough clutch hits to steal many games.

Last year, WVU had one of the strongest pitching staffs in the Big East. Unfortunately, this season the pitching didn't quite measure up to the levels of previous seasons. Ace Billy Biggs had some outstanding outings, but struggled at times on his way to a 7-7 record. The Mountaineer bullpen ranged from solid to bad, as they lost several leads, including a painful loss to Notre Dame after leading 6-1 in the seventh inning. On the season, WVU's relief corps managed just seven saves, which was offset by a league high 20 complete games from the starting pitchers.

Defensively, WVU was good, finishing third in the league with a .963 fielding percentage and only 66 errors, but that was again offset by the fact that the Mountaineers only managed to turn 28 double plays, a league low.

The future looks somewhat cloudy. Stalwarts Dallas Crews, Mike Frownfelter, Clayton Ewen and Chad Blevins all graduate, while players such as Billy Biggs will again be drafted and have to make the decision between college and professional ball.

Coach Greg Van Zant has signed an eight player recruiting class for next year's squad, which will again be in a rebuilding mode after losing three of their top four hitters as well as their number one relief pitcher.

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