MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Despite fielding a roster with a brand new weekend pitching rotation and several new starters occupying key spots in the lineup, the WVU baseball team was off to their best 16-game start in Randy Mazey’s eight seasons as head coach. The Mountaineers won 11 of their first 16 games until their season, like all college baseball teams, was cut short due to the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Among the promising young contributors in the early portion of the season was St. Albans High School graduate and southpaw pitcher Jake Carr. The true freshman began the season as the Sunday starter, pitching the third game in the weekend rotation. He received that word less than 24 hours before the Mountaineers packed up and headed south for the opening series at Jacksonville.
“I didn’t know in the beginning because (Coach) Mazey didn’t tell me directly,” Carr said. “At practice the day before we were going to Jacksonville, he said, ‘Carr, you are starting Sunday.’ And I said, ‘Oh, okay.’ That’s when I knew I was in the starting rotation.”
In his collegiate debut, Carr picked up the win against Jacksonville. He tossed five innings, allowing just one run on three hits as the Mountaineers took the rubber game of the three-game set, 2-1.
“I acted like I had been in that spot before. I just went out and pitched. That’s what it boiled down to, just knowing how to pitch and how to get batters out. That’s the mindset I took in there. I didn’t pay any attention to the crowd or the other team’s dugout. I just went out and pitched and it fell into place.”
A week later, Carr was back on the hill as the Mountaineers faced Illinois in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Although Carr was saddled with the loss, he went the distance in a 2-1 defeat.
“I had never pitched eight innings in a game before. After a while, I got stronger and I was a little bit surprised about that but that was probably the best game I pitched in terms of throwing strikes.”
Carr picked up his second win in a 13-1 triumph over Richmond on March 1st. In his fourth start against Mercer on March 8th, Carr did not factor into the decision but was effective in 4.2 innings of work. Through four starts, Carr posted a 1.52 ERA with a 2-1 record.
“The hitters are a lot better. They will find a way to put the bat on the ball if you make a bad pitch. In high school you can make a bad pitch and get away with it. But these hitters will make you pay for it if you make a bad pitch.”
Carr was nearly untouchable in his senior season last spring at St. Albans. He led the Red Dragons to the Class AAA state championship with a 7-0 record, an ERA of 0.22 and 105 strikeouts. His focus entering his first college season was to refine some of his pitches.
“I was more or less just working on throwing pitches with aggression. That’s what Mazey preaches a lot, to attack the strike zone, work your fastball to both sides of the plate, and to throw your curveball with aggression. My best pitch was probably my changeup because I got a real good feel for it after the first game of the season.”
The Mountaineers were scheduled to open up Big 12 play at Texas Tech on March 13th. On their way to the airport, WVU was told to return home. A day later, the entire season was officially canceled.
“(Mazey) said it is disappointing that the season is over but health is the first priority. So you just have to deal with it.”
Many of Carr’s former teammates at St. Albans are also in a holding pattern, wondering if they will get a chance to defend their state championship this spring. All high school sports in West Virginia are halted until at least mid-April.
“I feel bad for the seniors. That’s not something they can get back. That’s really rough but I hope they can get it in. There’s big things planned there.”
Carr and all NCAA spring sport athletes will have the opportunity to retain this season of eligibility.
“It is definitely a good learning platform. I got some experience under my belt for next year so I know what to expect.”