A question mark coming into the season, West Virginia’s starting rotation may end up being the strength of the team in 2020.
Anchored by 2019 MLB draft picks Alek Manoah, Nick Snyder and Kade Strowd, the Mountaineers’ starting rotation was lights-out last season. The trio combined for a 23-11 record in 44 starts. Manoah’s 2.08 ERA lead the Big 12 while Snyder’s 2.65 was third in the conference. They combined to strike out 334 batters while walking only 120.
With all three of them leaving for the pros, lefty Jackson Wolf was the only returning pitcher to regularly start games a year ago. In 2019 Wolf went 2-4 in 13 starts with a 5.17 ERA. He struck out 50 while walking 31 and gave up 14 home runs.
A junior in 2020, WVU coach Randy Mazey was looking to Wolf and sophomore Ryan Bergert to lead the pitching staff this season.
Through eight games, Wolf, Bergert and true freshman Jake Carr have more than lived up to expectations.
The weekend rotation has been 🔥 to start the year.
— WVU Baseball (@WVUBaseball) February 27, 2020
Each of the three has made two starts so far in 2020. The three have combined for a 4-1 record in six starts, striking out 38 to just six walks.
Wolf pitched the season opener against Jacksonville two weeks ago and immediately showed what he was capable of this season.
Wolf took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning against the Dolphins, allowing only one hit in seven innings of work while striking out eight. In his second start, against Kennesaw State, Wolf again pitched seven innings, this time allowing one run on six hits and two walks and struck out eight. WVU won both games.
Bergert has followed each of Wolf’s performances with gems of his own.
In the second game against Jacksonville, Bergert allowed one run in six innings of work, allowing four hits and one walk. WVU’s bullpen could not keep up, however, and the Mountaineers lost 4-3. Bergert’s second outing came against Saint Joseph’s last weekend. He struck out a career-high 14 batters in eight innings. He allowed one run on just two hits and one walk and the Mountaineers won 5-1.
Carr, a West Virginia native from St. Albans High School, has also done well in his first collegiate season.
Carr debuted in the rubber match against Jacksonville, turning in five innings where he allowed one run on three hits. WVU won that rubber match 2-1. Carr went eight innings against Illinois in South Carolina, allowing two hits and striking out three. WVU’s offense could not support him and the Mountaineers lost 2-1.
While Mazey is still searching for the team’s weekday starter, Wolf, Bergert and Carr have all but solidified their spots in the weekend rotation.
West Virginia will play 12 three-game weekend series over the rest of the season. If Wolf, Bergert and Carr continue to pitch as they have, the Mountaineers could finish a lot better in the Big 12 than their seventh-place preseason ranking.
All three should be in action this weekend as the team travels to compete in the Central Virginia Challenge. WVU will play VCU Friday, William & Mary Saturday and Richmond on Sunday.