So far 2018 hasn’t been the season that most envisioned it would be for the West Virginia baseball team (10-14, 1-5).
Coming off the program’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament in 21 years, many thought this season had the potential for repeat, if not greater, success.
However, the Mountaineers have struggled out of the gate. They own a losing record at the start of April when at this point last year they were five games above .500 instead of four below, and were winners of five out of seven at the start of conference play last year instead of having dropped five of six this time around.
Among the differences between the ’17 and ’18 campaigns has been the dip in offensive production.
For the entire 2017 season, the Mountaineers ranked in the top three in the Big 12 in average (.287), hits per game (9.89), runs (370) and runs per game (5.97), and stolen bases (73).
So far this year, West Virginia is last in the Big 12 in all of those stats except stolen bases.
WVU hitters have accounted for two runs or less in four of the six games, during which West Virginia is getting outscored by 4.5 runs per contest.
The low run production comes from only averaging five hits and 4.67 runners left on base per game. The Mountaineers are also striking nearly 10 times a game.
Kyle Gray currently leads the Mountaineers with just a .266 average. He’s one of only two WVU hitters with an average greater than .250.
Five West Virginia hitters finished last season with batting averages at .300 or better.
Meanwhile, all nine hitters that finished 2017 qualified for statistical leadership owned on-base percentages above .320. This year, of the nine batters that qualify, only five are reaching base at a rate of three out of every ten times.
In terms of run production, West Virginia has scored two runs or fewer 10 times this year, after doing so just 11 times all of last year.
Shorter outings on the mound from starting pitchers have contributed to the Mountaineers’ disappointing start to the season, but the offensive drop off from last season to this is one of the biggest reasons WVU currently sits last in the Big 12.