The Mountaineer baseball team will have just two players in the starting lineup back from the team that ended the season against Notre Dame in the Big East Conference Tournament last May. And this young WVU lineup has struggled with a .241 team batting average going into the first Big East Conference series of the season at home against Connecticut .
Due to the strength of the pitching staff, The Mountaineers have navigated the most difficult non conference schedule in school history for an 11-12 start to the season.
UConn won the regular season championship by 3 1/2 games last year and went on to win the Clemson Regional prior to falling to eventual College World Series champion South Carolina in the Super Regional round.
UConn has three pre-season all league picks back in its lineup as catcher Joe Pavone, second baseman L.J. Mazzilli and third baseman Tim Martin return. The Huskies, however did lose outfielder George Springer and pitcher Matt Barnes. Springer was the 11th in the draft by Houston. Barnes was taken later in the first round by the Red Sox.
UConn has played a difficult schedule as well. The Huskies are 7-11 after playing their first 17 games of the year away from home. UConn beat Yale 8-0 Wednesday in its home opener.
The Mountaineers are led offensively at this point by newcomers. Junior college transfer John Polonius leads the team with a .314 batting average. Freshman Bobby Boyd is next at .312. Boyd leads the team with nine stolen bases in 11 attempts. Matt Frazer, having recovered from a broken leg that ruined his season last year, is hitting .312 with a team leading 13 extra base hits. First baseman Ryan McBroom is batting .288 with a team high 16 RBI.
Outfielders Brady Wilson and Chris Rasky are the only players from last year’s season ending loss who will be in the lineup for the UConn game Friday.
The pitching staff has a little more experience as Wheeling’s Corey Walter will start game one. Walter is 2-2 with a 3.52 ERA so far. Lefthander Marshall Thompson also has two wins and will start game two Saturday. Dan Dierdorff will get the start in game three. Dierdorff leads the team with three wins in the early going. Closer Ryan Tezak is also back for his sophomore season as he has a win and four saves with a 2.00 ERA so far.
Game times this weekend are set for 5 p.m. Friday, 3 p.m. Saturday and noon on Sunday. The final two games will be broadcast live on WAJR-AM, 1440.