This story is part of a series previewing the West Virginia baseball team this week ahead of the Mountaineers’ season-opener against Georgia State on Friday. WVSN will publish previews of WVU’s outfield, infield and pitching staff this week.
Coming into the 2021 season, one of West Virginia baseball’s biggest strengths was supposed to be its weekend rotation, headlined by Jackson Wolf and Ryan Bergert. Well, that plan went out the window when WVU coach Randy Mazey announced that Bergert will miss the entire 2021 season recovering from offseason surgery.
“It’s no longer a one-two punch, it’s just a one-punch because Bergert’s out for the year,” Mazey said.
Nevertheless, a weekend rotation led by Wolf still has a considerably high ceiling. Wolf has been named both a Preseason All-American and to the Preseason All-Big 12 team in the run-up to this season. The senior lefty was 3-1 with four starts last season with a 1.05 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 25 2/3 innings.
“Wolf has matured a lot,” Mazey said of his ace. “He was kind of always in the shadow of [former Mountaineer] Alek Manoah his whole career…Once Manoah left, I think Jackson took it upon himself to try and be ‘the guy’ on this staff.”
Also returning to the weekend rotation will be second-year left-hander Jake Carr. The St. Albans, West Virginia native went 2-1 in four starts as a true freshman last season. He had a 1.52 ERA with 12 strikeouts to just three walks in 23 2/3 innings. Even though Carr’s college debut was limited in the COVID-shortened season, Mazey came away impressed.
“It’s hard to ignore what he did last year,” Mazey said. “If he had regressed a little bit, that’d be one thing but he’s gotten better since last year. He started off great and he’s going to be right in the mix in the weekends this season as well.”
The final spot in WVU’s weekend rotation seems to be up for grabs, although junior college transfer Adam Tulloch would seem to have a good shot at it. Mazey said Tulloch most likely would have been selected in last summer’s MLB draft if it had not been shortened to just five rounds. The junior left-hander was 0-1 in five starts with the College of Central Florida last season. He had a 2.88 ERA and 42 punchouts in just 25 innings. He started his college career at Division-II Wingate in 2019.
Right-hander Tyler Strechay, last season’s weekday starter, could also be in the mix for that final weekend spot. The sophomore had an iffy start to his college career at the beginning of last season, but turner in back-to-back scoreless five-inning starts to end the season. He finished with a 2-1 record in five appearances, four starts, with a 3.07 ERA in 14 2/3 innings.
Despite the upside his rotation has this season, Mazey said it gives him some pause that the only one who has ever faced Big 12 competition is Wolf.
“The only thing you don’t know about our pitching staff from last season is we didn’t face any Big 12 teams,” Mazey said. “I wouldn’t say we strapped it on with any teams that are considered high-powered offenses.”