Black Bears earn fourth straight victory

GRANVILLE — Aaron Shortridge’s right arm is as lively as the average hurricane and faster than a cheetah in full sprint.

His 90-mph fastball would definitely get a speeding ticket out on Interstate 79.

Yet the former California standout doesn’t hesitate to back away from the term “power pitcher.”

“I just consider myself a pitcher,” Shortridge said June 23, after helping the West Virginia Black Bears knock off State College, Pa., 4-2, in front of 2,034 fans inside Monongalia County Ballpark. “I really don’t put any emphasis on that. I don’t think that throwing hard is the most important thing.”

It was the fourth consecutive win for the Black Bears (4-4).

It would be hard to find many in today’s game who agree with Shortridge. With almost every pitcher in Major League Baseball throwing at least 90 mph, strikeouts per game are up to nearly nine per team across the league.

Against State College (3-5), West Virginia coach Kieran Mattison closed the game with Shea Murray and Ryan Valdes. Both guys topped off at 91 mph on their fastballs.

“We’re fortunate to have some guys who can really run it up there,” Mattison said. “Once we get them really stretched out, you’ll start to see even more velocity. We knew coming out of extended (spring training) that we had some live arms and we drafted some pretty good arms, too. These new guys can run it up there, but we’ve got to get them to attack the strike zone. Velocity is good, but you have to pitch to contact.”

Shortridge, who was a fourth-round pick by the Pirates this year after going 5-3 at Cal this season, was dominant in his first three innings, but ran into trouble in the fourth.

Connor Loeprich pitched out of a bases-loaded jam with a strikeout and a groundout to end the threat in relief.

Shortridge’s motion looks effortless, almost as if anyone could go out there and throw 90. He follows that up with a humble attitude and a work ethic that carried him from a role player on Cal’s pitching staff as a freshman to the team’s top starter as a junior.

“I don’t even remember the first time I hit 90,” he said. “I think locating your fastball is more important. You have to have the ability to move the ball toward the corners.”

Despite allowing seven walks, the Black Bears’ pitching staff is showing signs of improvement after dropping the first four games of the season while allowing 37 runs.

“I saw a bunch of guys who have been working hard,” Mattison said. “They got off to a slow start, but they have learned.”

Daniel Amaral and Luke Mangieri each hit a solo home run and Fabricio Macias added three hits.

Mangieri, who scored three times, scored the go-ahead run, in the fourth inning. He walked with one out and advanced to second when Raul Siri was hit by a pitch, then scored on Zac Susi’s single.

From there, it was up to the Black Bears’ pitching. They combined to strike out nine State College hitters. Just don’t limit their game to only being power pitchers.

“I wouldn’t call them power pitchers,” Mattison said. “They’re just guys who have good arms. All of them have a good secondary pitches. I would say they are guys who have some electric stuff.”

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