Part 3 of our preview series on the 2020 Mountaineers baseball team. Check out the rest of the series below as we countdown to opening day this Friday. You can see their entire schedule here.
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – With all of its departures last season, it is the West Virginia outfield that is left with the most holes to fill in 2020.
WVU lost all three starting outfielders from 2019, Darius Hill and Brandon White to the MLB draft and TJ Lake to graduation.
The trio of Hill, White and Lake had 580 combined at-bats last season, 29.3% of the entire team’s at-bats for the whole year. They also combined for nine home runs and 88 runs batted in.
It is not all bad news for the outfield, however, as the Mountaineers will get a boost with the return of senior Braden Zarbnisky from injury. Zarbnisky, a redshirt senior, missed all of 2019 with an injury. Prior to that, Zarbnisky played both ways, hitting .284 in his career with a 3.75 ERA. Zarbnisky made 42 starts in left field in 2018. That season he hit .259 with 42 walks, 39 runs scored and 27 stolen bases.
While Zarbnisky could start at either corner spot, center field still remains open. WVU coach Randy Mazey said true freshman Victor Scott will be starting in center for WVU.
“You can’t replace Brandon White,” Mazey said. “You can in the lineup, it’s hard to do it in center field. Victor Scott’s going to be a really good player for us.”
Scott, a Powder Springs, Georgia, native hit .306 as a senior at McEachern High School. Scott will be replacing White, who slashed .272/.387/.308 wth 26 stolen bases and 37 runs scored in 2019.
Zarbnisky not the only player with previous playing experience that WVU will have in the outfield mix with the signing of junior college outfielder Austin Earl. The junior came to WVU this season by way of Wenatchee Valley College where he played for two seasons. Earl found success early, leading the Northwest Athletic Conference in batting (.325) and home runs (13) as a freshman in 2018. He was also named first-team East Region and won a Gold Glove in 2018.
Rounding out the outfield, Austin Davis saw some playing time as a freshman in 2019 but could push for more time in 2020. As a true freshman Davis had 59 at-bats in 42 games, 16 starts, hitting .220 with 12 stolen bases and 14 runs scored.
The 2020 WVU baseball season starts on Feb. 14 with a three-game series against Jacksonville in Florida. The Mountaineers will play the earliest home game in program history this season with a game against Canisius at Monongalia County Ballpark on Feb. 18.