MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Hoping to bolster a bullpen that has been wildly inconsistent and essentially unreliable through 32 games, West Virginia coach Randy Mazey plans to give No. 2 starter Sean Carley a shot at the closer’s role.
A junior right-hander who owns one of WVU’s three complete games this season, Carley (5-1, 2.73 ERA) remains tentatively scheduled to start Saturday’s capper of a three-game series at Oklahoma.
However, that will only happen if Carley isn’t needed for bullpen work Thursday or Friday.
Carley’s midseason role change shows Mazey is willing to trade a quality start each weekend in return for strengthening the bullpen over the span of an entire series. And as could be the case this weekend, if Carley isn’t required in a late-inning situation during the first two games, he could make a Game 3 start regardless.
The Mountaineers (17-15, 2-6 Big 12) had dropped seven straight games before beating Ohio State 4-1 on Tuesday night, a game marked by the stunning emergence of sophomore Ross Vance, who struck out 14 in a complete-game eight-hitter. That performance may have earned Vance a spot in future weekend rotations, though it’s doubtful he would take Carley’s spot Saturday, a mere three days after throwing 145 pitches against the Buckeyes.
The 6-foot-4 Carley has appeared in nine games this season—all starts—after sitting out 2013 as a transfer. He has allowed 61 hits in 59 1/3 innings while striking out 36 and walking 17.
He started all 12 appearances for Air Force in 2011 and hasn’t pitched out of the bullpen since his freshman year at the Academy in 2010. (He missed 2012 with an elbow injury.)
Left-hander John Means, the No. 3 starter sidelined with shoulder soreness since leaving an April 5 game against TCU after just three innings, is scheduled to pitch Thursday night’s series opener in Norman. That allows ace Harrison Musgrave to pitch in his customary Friday spot.
“Pitchers are unique characters to say the least and you don’t want to mess with there routines that much,” Mazey said. “Harrison pitches on Friday, and if you push Harrison to Thursday, it changes his routine a little bit. We’re going to keep him on Friday. We skipped last weekend with Means, so we’ll flip him to Thursday and hope for the best.”
Oklahoma (24-14, 4-5) was swept at home by league frontrunner Texas last weekend. But the Sooners rebounded Tuesday night to win a Bedlam Series 18-inning marathon 12-9 over No. 13 Oklahoma State, who had swept WVU in Morgantown last weekend.
When Carley left Saturday’s game against the Cowboys after seven innings and having thrown 127 pitches, the score was tied 1-1. But three WVU relievers subsequently turned that into a 9-2 loss.