WVU baseball team utilizes speed on the bases 213

MORGANTOWN — The only hesitation, WVU center fielder Brandon White said, comes in looking for the right time to run.

It is not a matter of getting the OK from WVU head baseball coach Randy Mazey, who seems to have a certain appreciation in watching his players run and steal bases, a sort of throwback to an era when the game was built around speed and not power.

“Speed changes the game and it changes the way the other team pitches and the way it plays defense,” Mazey said, firmly planted in 2018 and not in the 1980s. “I wish we could do more of that actually, but you try so hard not to make outs on the bases.”

And so we look at just one inning through the work of White’s legs — the third inning during a 12-1 victory against Pitt last week — in which he was nearly a one-man speed show.

First, he beat out a high chopper to the shortstop for an infield single.

Then, the hesitation, as the sophomore from Winter Springs, Fla., looked for the right moment.

“We have a group of guys on this team that we know pretty much have the green light to go,” said White, who is tied for seventh in the Big 12 with 11 stolen bases this season. “When I’m on [base], I try and get in the pitcher’s head. I want him thinking about me.”

After watching teammate Darius Hill flyout, White was off and running, stealing second base on the first pitch to Marques Inman and then stole third on the very next pitch.

White scored moments later on Inman’s ground ball.

“He single-handedly scored a run on his own with his speed,” Mazey said.

As the Mountaineers (16-17) travel to Pitt (19-14), at 6 p.m. April 17, at Charles L. Cost Field for the rematch, they do so as a team confident in its running ability.

WVU is second in the Big 12 with 55 stolen bases, trailing only Kansas State — the Mountaineers will host the Wildcats for a swift three-game series starting Friday, at Monongalia County Ballpark — and could feature a lineup of four starters all with the ability to steal bases.

It starts with WVU leadoff hitter Braden Zarbnisky, who is fifth in the Big 12 with 15 stolen bases, while only being caught stealing twice.

Add White, who either bats second or ninth and WVU shortstop Jimmy Galusky (eight steals) is also a threat.

“I would also put Kyle Gray in there, too” Mazey said of WVU’s second baseman, who is 7-for-9 this season in stolen-base attempts.

It’s not that the Mountaineers can’t hit for power. WVU is fourth in the Big 12 with 30 home runs and Inman has hit four of them over his last eight games.

But, if chicks dig the long ball, well, these Mountaineers dig a good stolen base.

“We’ve got a lot of guys who can run and it allows us to be more aggressive,” Galusky said. “It gives us a chance to get into more scoring opportunities and guys have been coming through with the bats later in the inning to drive someone in.”

The speed game long ago left as a key strategy in Major League Baseball, a fact that is not lost on the college level.

“You’re not going to see too many 100-stolen base guys in the big leagues anymore,” Mazey said. “It beats their bodies up too much. Speed kills at this level. It’s really the only skill you can use on both offense and defense.”

And it’s a skill that pushes the fleet-of-foot Mountaineers to run even faster.

“We’ve never raced, but we all like to compare our 100-yard dash times,” said White, who Mazey said was probably his fastest player. “That’s become pretty competitive for all of us.

“Who would win would be tough. Galusky is right there with me and Zarb can fly. It would be close.”

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WVU golfers set for Big 12 tournament 34

It’s crazy what just a few years can do.

Three years ago, WVU was just another start-up program, trying to make their mark in the dense, competitive world of NCAA golf. Now, the Mountaineers are wrapping up a season highlighted by a trio of team victories, and look to finish with an impact at the 22nd Big 12 Men’s Golf championships.

The 72-hole tournament will tee-off April 23, from Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla., and run through April 25.

“We’re looking forward to the tournament. It’s a major championship in college golf,” WVU coach Sean Covich said. “We’re just excited to get down to Southern Hills.”

The team will enter the tournament with momentum on their side, as they are coming off a runner-up finish at the Penn State Rutherford Intercollegiate.

“We’re starting to play well, and it’s been a year of improvement. Everyone on the team has gotten better, and that’s what it’s all about,” Covich said.

He hopes his team can carry that momentum forward as they look to take on one of the upper echelon college championships.

“It’s just a great opportunity,” he said. “That’s what you come to West Virginia for, to play in the Big 12 Championship. And I think we have confidence going based on our play this year.”

Junior Max Sear, who comes off an individual runner-up finish at Penn State, will lead the Mountaineers into the tournament. Sear looks to pace his team, and is focusing on his game around the green as the key to success on the weekend.

“I’ve been focusing on putting all year,” Sear said. “The rounds I post good scores are the rounds I’m putting well, and the rounds I don’t do well I struggle on the greens. The greens should be pretty fast, so I’m focusing on that.”

Covich expects one of the major challenges to be figuring out the course once they are on location in Oklahoma. According to him, knowing the course intricately can have quite the impact on one’s play.

“That’s huge in golf, just knowing the layout of the course. We’re kind of behind the eight ball. In our practice round, we just have to pay attention to the course,” Covich said.

Sear and his teammates look forward to attacking the opportunity in front of them with gusto, and are eager for the atmosphere of a championship event.

“It’s kind of just an exciting environment,” Sear said. “Just being able to warm up next to these guys who had tremendous college career is a great opportunity. It’s just a different kind of environment; everyone takes things a little more seriously.”

Of course, there is one thing bout the tournament the squad isn’t worried about taking too seriously; their uniform selection.

“Keenan, my five year old, when we come home from tournaments he always asks what we wore, and he’s always giving suggestions,” Covich said. “I told him, if you’re good in school, and you listen to your mom, than you can pick out one of our uniforms. He actually picked out a good uniform.”

Regardless of uniform choice, the Mountaineers are ready to show their continued growth as a program on one of the highest levels in NCAA golf.

“It’s just another year to try and get better,” Covich said.

Myers, WVU survive Kansas State 135

GRANVILLE — It wasn’t the prettiest first inning for WVU pitcher BJ Myers against Kansas State on Friday, April 20, at Monongalia County Ballpark.

It may have been tough because it’s was the first first inning Myers has pitched in over a month. He moved from the rotation, to the bullpen and back to the rotation out of necessity.

Head coach Randy Mazey knows what Myers has been through isn’t easy, but it was a shaky start for the senior righty pitcher.

Myers and first baseman Marques Inman didn’t communicate on a grounder in front of first, allowing the runner to reach.

Then Myers threw the ball away on a pick-off move to allow the first run of the game to score by the Wildcats. Another run scored on a base hit to left, and Myers and the Mountaineers were down 2-0 before being able to swing the bat.

It was an unusual start for one of WVU’s top pitchers. Myers, a senior, gave up no earned runs in this last four appearances out of the bullpen prior to Friday (11 2/3 innings).

However, the problem wasn’t getting hit hard for Myers, it was walks. With a tight strike zone from home plate umpire Mike Morris, Myers struggled with command early on, walking a season-high five batters after walking just eight all season prior.

After early struggles and falling behind early, though, Myers retired 10-straight hitters in six innings on the mound, helping the WVU offense come back to take an 8-5 win.

“When they got those two runs in the third inning, I was a little frustrated because I thought I made a good pitch but the hitter put a good swing on it,” Myers said. “It definitely put a fire in me and I tried to bear down a little more after that.”

While Myers earned a no-decision, settling down and possibly getting back on a weekend rotation was crucial for the Mountaineers (18-17, 3-7 Big 12).

Making that significant of a change going for starter, to reliever, back to starter this late into a career is something Mazey appreciates Myers having the attitude to do.

“Kudos to BJ for, No. 1, buying into the change,” Mazey said. “We talk about leadership all the time, and without saying a word, that’s leadership — going out there and making an adjustment for the benefit of the team.”

Left-fielder Braden Zarbnisky scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the 8th inning, scoring on a wild pitch by KSU (16-22, 2-10) pitcher Alex Belch. A batter later, right-fielder Darius Hill socked an inside fastball for a two-run home run.

“That’s Zarb — when he’s playing like that, we’re winning,” Mazey said. “Darius is another guy, with the game on the line and a one-run game, comes up big and hits a two-run homer. That’s what veteran players are supposed to do.”

WVU first baseman Marques Inman went 4-for-5 at the plate, the first four-hit game of his career.

Sophomore pitcher Sam Kessler earned the win with a scoreless 1 1/3 innings to end the game.

The series continues, at 4 p.m. today.

WVU ROUNDUP: WVU hosts Wildcats in crucial series 208

Winners of six of its last eight games, the WVU baseball team will host Kansas State (16-21, 2-10 Big 12) in a three-game series beginning at 6:30 p.m. today, at Monongalia County Ballpark.

The Mountaineers (17-17, 2-7) enter the weekend ranked No. 25 in the latest NCAA RPI after a 9-2 win over Canisius on Wednesday.

WVU has the No. 2 strength of schedule in the country and is one of five Big 12 teams in the top 38 of the RPI.

WVU is No. 2 in the Big 12 and No. 24 nationally with 60 stolen bases, while WVU and ranks third with 0.88 home runs per game. On the mound, WVU’s 1.88 strikeouts-to-walk ratio is No. 4 in the Big 12.

Individually, Braden Zarbnisky leads the league and is No. 6 nationally with an average of 1.07 walks per game. He also is second in the Big 12 and No. 20 in the NCAA with 0.59 stolen bases per game. Darius Hill is 26th nationally with 14 doubles.

The Wildcats are coming off a 4-3 win at Nebraska, which snapped a nine-game losing streak. The three-game series this weekend is part of an eight-game roadtrip for Kansas State.

Two senior right-handers will take the mound on Friday, as WVU’s B.J. Myers (0-1, 5.08 ERA) faces K-State’s Justin Heskett (2-5, 6.34).

On Saturday, it’s a pair of sophomore righties, as Kade Strowd (3-3, 4.83) goes for the Mountaineers and Caleb Littlejim (2-1, 6.55) takes the mound for the Wildcats.

Tickets for all three games are available at WVUGAME.com, by calling 1-800-WVU GAME, at the Mountaineer Ticket Office at the WVU Coliseum or on game day at Monongalia County Ballpark.

Tennis

WVU will conclude its regular season this weekend with a pair of matches against No. 13 Texas Tech, on Friday, and TCU, on Sunday.

Weather depending, both matches will take place at the Mountaineer Tennis Courts. In case of inclement weather, the matches will be moved indoors to the Summit Tennis Academy. Friday’s match will begin at 5 p.m., while Sunday’s contest is set for 11 a.m.

Free pizza and WVU Tennis posters will be available to all fans attending the match on Friday. Fans also are encouraged to stay after the match for an autograph signing with the team.

On Sunday, WVU will honor its seniors, Lyn Yuen Choo and Yvon Martinez. All fans in attendance will be able to get free bagels and WVU tennis posters. Fans are encouraged to be in their seats 10 minutes prior to the match to help recognize the seniors for their outstanding accomplishments.

“Just like anyone in the Big 12, they are tough,” fifth-year coach Miha Lisac said. “Texas Tech is one of the best teams in the Big 12 and one of the best teams in the nation, so we are always excited to have an opportunity to challenge ourselves against that level of competition.”

Choo currently sits at No. 14 in school history with 114 career wins in both singles and doubles play, and is tied for No. 15 in singles wins in her career. Despite sitting out the majority of her senior season due to a knee injury, Martinez has amassed 58 career wins.

Men’s soccer

WVU has added a spring  exhibition match against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the United Soccer League (USL) on Tuesday, April 24.

Kickoff at Highmark Stadium, in Pittsburgh, is set for 7:45 p.m. Admission will be free.

“This will be a fun opportunity for our team to play a professional team in a terrific setting for soccer,” WVU coach Marlon LeBlanc said. “We’ve shown progress as a team this spring, and playing the Riverhounds will be a great test. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Prior to its trip to Pittsburgh, WVU plays host to VCU, at 3 p.m. Saturday.

The match will be held at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium, and admission is free.

WVU opened the spring season with a 1-0 win over Charleston and followed it with a 2-0 victory against West Virginia Wesleyan.

Rifle

Sophomore Morgan Phillips and freshman Sarah Osborn of the WVU rifle team earned a pair of podium finishes, at the 2018 National Junior Olympic Shooting Championships for Rifle and Pistol, at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Col.

Phillips, a native of Salisbury, Maryland, finished first in the women’s 50m rifle 3 positions with a final total of 2,333.

The two-time reigning NCAA smallbore champion shot 1,170 on the first day of competition and 1,155 on the second day, giving her a match total of 2325, 12-shots better than second place. Phillips shot a winning 453.6 in the final on April 16, earning eight additional points and bringing her final score to 2333.

Osborn, a Hampton, Virginia, native, placed second in the women’s 10m air rifle with a 1246.5 total. She finished with daily marks of 622.2 and 622.3 and placed fifth in the final on April 18 with a 183.4 mark, earning two additional points.

By virtue of their finishes, the duo has qualified for the United States Junior National Team and has earned the right to compete in their respective events at the 52nd ISSF Junior World Championship, in Changwon, Korea on Aug. 31.