OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — The revised pool-play format at the Big 12 baseball tournament led West Virginia coach Randy Mazey to revise his pitching rotation.
Mazey said senior Dan Dierdorff (4-7), not Big 12 pitcher of the year Harrison Musgrave, will start the third-seeded Mountaineers’ tournament opener against No. 6-seeded Kansas on Thursday.
“When you get into round-robin play, and you’re not facing a kind of elimination in Game 1, it changes your strategy a little bit,” Mazey said Wednesday. “So we’re trying to matchup certain pitchers against certain teams right now.”
Musgrave (8-1) is scheduled to pitch Friday against No. 7 seed TCU. WVU closes pool play by facing Oklahoma State on Saturday.
After Monday’s catastrophic tornado postponed the start of the tournament by a day, the Big 12 switched from a double-elimination bracket to a two-division pool-play format, with the pool winners scheduled to meet Sunday for the championship.
“If Kansas were to beat us in the first game, we’d still have a chance to win our pool,” Mazey said. “But if we were to beat Kansas and lose to one of the other two teams (TCU or Oklahoma State), then it would be way harder to win our pool.
“We can survive losing the first game, but I don’t think we can survive losing Game 2 or 3 because of the format.”
Dierdorff enjoyed one of his best outings of the season, a complete-game seven-hitter, when he beat Kansas 4-3 on April 27. He fanned six in that performance, part of WVU’s three-game sweep of the Jayhawks in Beckley.
“(Dierdorff) threw a complete game against them earlier in the season,” Mazey said. “He feels confident, and our guys are going to feel confident behind him. It won’t be easy, but if we have aspirations of winning the entire tournament, we’ve got to win more than one game.”
In his three starts since facing Kansas, Dierdorff has garnered mixed results. He beat Oklahoma 9-3 the following week by allowing two earned runs in 6 2/3 innings, but was knocked around in back-to-back 7-4 losses to TCU (four earned runs in only 2/3 of an inning) and Oklahoma State (seven runs in seven innings).
Though consecutive rocky outings elevated Dierdorff’s season ERA to 5.23, Mazey thinks the right-hander will be reliable when WVU plays its first Big 12 tournament game at the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
“When you get to the end of the year, seniors have a way of playing better,” Mazey said. “The experience really helps out. I don’t think he’ll get caught up in the big crowd or the big stadium or anything. He’s been around a while.
‘I hope he throws well. He did the last time he pitched against them.”