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Floyd: Pitching a Massive Concern for WVU Baseball in 2024



WVU baseball pitcher Aidan Major

WVU Baseball played perhaps their best season in program history in 2023, tying a team record with 40 wins and seeing their highest ranking ever in the weekly polls with the No. 6 spot ahead of the final week of the regular season. 

Even as they lost seven of their last eight games to close the season, including suffering a sweep out of the Big 12 Tournament despite earning a share of the regular season conference championship, many Mountaineers fans expressed hope for the team’s chances moving forward

With true freshmen making up 15 of the 38 players on the roster on a team picked to finish No. 6 of 9 in the preseason, the Mountaineers weren’t supposed to be here in the first place. It should’ve been a rebuilding year as a host of young players found their footing at the Division I level, and yet they managed to win a conference title.

The return of standout players like second baseman JJ Wetherholt for another season meant that the Mountaineers could use their wildly successful 2023 campaign as a springboard for greater success moving forward. 

Early Concerns

Those high hopes took a big hit on Monday, though, as ace pitcher Ben Hampton reportedly entered the transfer portal. The Mountaineers were already down a pitcher as fifth-year Blaine Traxel exhausted his last year of eligibility. Hampton’s exit leaves West Virginia without a consistent weekend starter, as they never managed to settle on their No. 3 pitcher during the season. Now they must address the top two spots as well. 

Pitchers Robby Porco, Grant Siegel and Carson Estridge all made at least one weekend start, but the young guns struggled with consistency.

They could take a massive leap forward next season, or could continue to go through growing pains. 

The pressure only builds when they’re competing for the top spots instead of filling out the back end of the lineup. Head coach Randy Mazey knows the importance of a stacked rotation from top to bottom, emphasizing in April that a team likely needs four to five quality starting pitchers to make a deep tournament run. 

Therefore, the Mountaineers have a massive void to fill as they look to next season. 

Organic Options

The transfer portal giveth just as it taketh away in this era of college sports, but the solution could still come from in-house. Closer Carlson Reed has served as a starter in the past, possessing the burst to throw in the high 90s and the endurance to do it for several innings. Aidan Major became a sort of piggyback starter this season, stepping in in relief to eat up a chunk of a game if the opposing team chased the Mountaineers’ starters early. 

After Traxel and Hampton struggled to end the season, it’ll be interesting to see if Mazey goes in another direction when it comes to starting pitching: rather than having pitchers who top out in the mid 80s and rely on deception to fool batters, if he looks to emphasize players like Reed, Major and Porco who can hit the high 90s. With those options already on the roster, a chance of pace could be a good idea: Mazey wouldn’t have to scour the transfer portal for flamethrowers.  

Even so, bringing in an outside arm or two doesn’t hurt as players deal with the ups and downs of a 55 game season. Mazey did an excellent job of raiding the transfer portal last season, picking up players like Traxel as well as outfielders Landon Wallace and Caleb McNeely. He’ll need to do it again (at least to add insurance options), if WVU Baseball is to build off one of the best seasons in program history in 2024.

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