One of the best pitching matchups in college baseball this season — or any season — is the backdrop for a pivotal Big 12 series at Mon County Ballpark this weekend.
West Virginia’s Alek Manoah and TCU’s Nick Lodolo are 1-2 in the Big 12 in strikeouts in addition to having the top two ERAs in the league among weekend starters. Manoah is 6-2 with a 1.76 ERA and 103 strikeouts while Lodolo rolls in at 5-4 with a 2.16 ERA and 80 strikeouts.
“The matchup on Friday night is one you’ll hardly ever see in this ballpark,” said West Virginia coach Randy Mazey. “You’ve got two Major League pitchers going against each other. This is going to be a treat to see these guys pitch.”
According to MLB.com, the matchup is one you’ll hardly ever see in any ballpark. With the MLB Draft exactly one month away, the lefty Lodolo is rated as the top pitching prospect in this year’s draft and Manoah is No. 2. They are ranked eighth and 10th overall, respectively.
Runs figure to come at a premium Friday night and potentially all weekend. The West Virginia and TCU pitching staffs are also the top two in the Big 12 in strikeouts per nine innings.
The No. 17 Mountaineers (27-15, 10-8 Big 12) have been the worst-hitting team in the Big 12 this season, but have a way of making things happen late. WVU is outscoring opponents 44-19 in the eighth inning.
“Our team does a really good job of staying poised whether we’re down, tied or just barely up,” said senior right fielder Darius Hill. “Almost everybody in the lineup has done something to help us late in a game this year. Baseball’s a contagious sport offensively. Once one person feels it, everyone starts feeling it with him.”
West Virginia is seeking its sixth-straight series victory. The Mountaineers are up to No. 15 in the RPI. The top 16 teams in the country as determined by the NCAA selection committee are named hosts of each four-team regional.
In an unexpected twist given the histories of both programs, the Horned Frogs may be the team in greater need of a series win. TCU (24-19, 6-9) is on the outside looking in at the postseason, coming into the weekend at No. 87 in RPI. The Horned Frogs reached the College World Series four straight years before missing the postseason last year.