Walk-On Realizes Lifelong Dream Against LeMoyne

When West Virginia reliever Justin Asbury took the mound on Friday night to pitch the eighth and ninth innings of the Mountaineers' home opener against LeMoyne, it did not seem out of the ordinary to the average fan.

WVU held a 12-3 lead over the Dolphins, and Asbury was called upon to relieve starting pitcher Zac Cline. The game was clearly in the Mountaineers' hands, and Asbury's role was to simply pitch a couple of innings to finish out the route.

For the junior from Bancroft, WV, however, the outing meant much more. The two innings marked Asbury's debut on the Hawley Field mound and was the realization of a lifelong dream.

"Growing up, I always wanted to play at West Virginia" Asbury commented. "I worked extremely hard to get this chance and now it has finally arrived."

After his senior season under Al Billings at Poca High School, Asbury was sure that he wanted to continue pitching at the college level. The 6-2 right-hander received little interest from major colleges and decided to head to West Virginia State to start his college career under the tutelage of State coach Calvin Bailey.

Asbury pitched two seasons at State and performed admirably as both a starter and a reliever. Justin realized that it was time to take a shot at living his dream. "Over the summer (before the 2002 baseball season) I contacted coach Van Zant and asked him if I could walk on" Asbury explained. "I came up and tried out and coach decided to keep me."

Van Zant chose to redshirt Asbury in order to give him the chance to learn the ropes without the responsibility of having to take the mound. The accounting major spent the season learning how to pitch the West Virginia way and working hard in the weight room.

Coming into the 2003 campaign, Asbury felt that his redshirt season had prepared him well and he was ready for action.

"I felt like I would eventually get my chance if I continued to work hard and throw strikes" said Asbury. "I knew when I did, I had to go out and make the best of it."

That chance finally came against LeMoyne, and true to his word, Asbury did make the best of it. Asbury faced seven Dolphin hitters and only one reached base on a walk. He retired the other six LeMoyne hitters, recorded one strikeout, and did not allow a run in his two innings of work.

"It felt great" Asbury admitted. "It was a big rush and I just tried to throw strikes and not really think about the situation. After the game, I had the chance to sit back and think about how hard I had worked to get to this point, but on the mound I was focused on getting strikes and letting my defense make the outs."

Asbury hopes that he will have more and more opportunities to take to the mound as he plays out his junior and senior season wearing the blue and gold.

"I just want to try to help the team in any way possible" Asbury commented. "Whatever role I'm asked to fill, I will do my best to help this team win." With a long season ahead of him, the long time Mountaineer fan will surely have more chances to make an impact on this young West Virginia pitching staff, and if his past record is any indication, he will certainly rise to the occasion.

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