Baseball Less Than One Week Away

Although the snow blanketing much of the east has people thinking more of sledding than sliders, it's almost time for baseball at WVU.

The Mountaineers begin their 12th season under the helm of head coach Greg Van Zant next weekend, when they being a nine-game southern road swing that includes appearances in two tournaments. Following a 25-30 (10-15) season in 2005, which had its share of ups and downs, the Mountaineers are looking to get off to a better start and improve on the seventh-place Big East finish of a year ago.

Returning for the Mountaineers are two of the best power hitters in the conference -- senior left fielder Stan Posluzny and junior third basemen Justin Jenkins. Posluzny hopes to follow up a stellar junior season where he hit 12 home runs and drove in 50 runs en route to earning third team all-Big East honors. Fellow slugger Jenkins is also coming off an extremely productive season in which he batted .359 while also blasting 12 home runs and driving in 43 runs.

The Mountaineers also return their entire infield for the 2006 season. Leading the way is first-team all-Big East selection Doug Nelms at shortstop. Nelms, who hit .349 last season, isn't just a one-dimensional player. The Bristol native is just as regarded for his glove as he is for his bat. Rounding out the infield are sophomore second baseman Tyler Kuhn, and junior first baseman Kyle Matuszek.

Junior David Carpenter returns as the team's catcher and looks to continue to build off an impressive 2005 season, which has earned him preseason all-Big East recognition. Since taking over as full-time starter after Travis D'Amico went down with an injury last season, Carpenter has earned a reputation as one of the best defensive backstops in the Big East.

As far as pitching goes, the Mountaineers will have plenty of leeway in deciding a rotation with up to seventeen candidates to choose from. Although there are no all-Big East caliber returnees, Van Zant likes the depth and versatility he will have coming into this season. Leading the way is a trio of southpaws in senior Marty Fagler, sophomore Kenny Durst, and sophomore Matt Yurish. Following them are senior right hander Kevin Korzun, junior left hander Wes Osbourn, junior left hander Brendan Bergerson, and sophomore right hander Levi Maxwell, a diamond in the rough whose fastball has been clocked at 92 MPH.

In the outfield, the Mountaineers will host a battle for the two open spots between Division III Allegany College transfer Jason Pape, redshirt freshman Adam White and senior Casey Bowling.

West Virginia was picked to finish tied for seventh with the Villanova Wildcats in the Big East preseason coaches' poll. Three Mountaineers were selected to the preseason all-Big East first team: Stan Poslunzy, Doug Nelms, and David Carpenter.

WVU opens the season with a three game series against Bucknell in Winston-Salem, N.C., then returns to the Tar Heel state a week later for three games in the East Carolina tournament. A third weeked road trip follows for the Coastal Carolina tournament the first weekend in March before the Mountaineers open their home schedule with a doubleheader against Niagara on March 7.

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