MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia baseball coach Randy Mazey may not start ace Harrison Musgrave against Oklahoma State in the final regular-season series, potentially keeping the Big 12 pitcher of the year candidate fresh for the conference tournament.
Musgrave (8-1, 2.14 ERA) has gone 5-0 in seven Big 12 starts, getting the call in each series opener and pitching every seventh day. But with WVU a long shot to make up a two-game deficit to Kansas State in the standings, Mazey has decided against starting Musgrave on five days’ rest Thursday night in Stillwater, Okla. Instead, the coach will open with right-hander Dan Dierdorff (4-6, 4.82 ERA) and has tentatively announced John Means (4-3, 3.61) as the starter in Friday’s Game 2.
Only a year removed from Tommy John surgery, Musgrave fanned 14 batters in a 2-0 win over TCU last Saturday. That start was delayed one day by rain which — along with the Oklahoma State series being moved up to a Thursday start — created a shorter-than-usual turnaround for the left-hander.
“One day’s difference wouldn’t mean much, but two days’ difference would,” Mazey said. “It maybe wouldn’t affect (Musgrave) this start, but it may affect his next start in the conference tournament.”
“We don’t want to extend his pitch count because next week is a short week also. We don’t want to give him back-to-back short weeks.”
West Virginia (30-23, 12-9) at Oklahoma State (37-13, 11-9)
Game 1: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
Game 2: Friday, 7:30 p.m. (Fox College Sports TV)
Game 3: Saturday, 4 p.m.
Radio on the Mountaineer Sports Network with Morgantown WAJR 1440 AM serving as the flagship.
The Big 12 tournament begins Wednesday in Oklahoma City, and it’s believed WVU — after dropping two of three to TCU last weekend — needs to win the tourney to reach an NCAA regional via an automatic bid. However, despite an RPI of 100, the Mountaineers (30-23, 12-9) could make a tenuous case for an at-large bid should they claim a share of the regular-season title.
If WVU can move into position to tie for the crown — by winning its first two games and K-State dropping its series opener Friday to Oklahoma — Mazey would have Musgrave in reserve for Saturday’s finale against the Cowboys.
“We’ll pitch (Musgrave) if we have a chance to win the league, but if it’s just for the purpose of seeding, probably not,” Mazey said. “He might pitch an inning or two somewhere to get him ready” for the conference tournament.
Oklahoma State (37-13, 11-9), which sits 32nd in the RPI, is on solid ground for an NCAA at-large berth but cannot claim a piece of the Big 12 title unless an unlikely sequence transpires. The Cowboys must sweep WVU and have Oklahoma win two games from Kansas State, with a rainout canceling the third, in order to force a three-way tie at 14-9.