Expectations for the West Virginia University baseball team are high this season. Despite not being ranked at all in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, D1Baseball has the Mountaineers ranked at No. 14 in its preseason Top 25 rankings.
Checking in at #⃣1⃣4⃣ by @d1baseball!
— WVU Baseball (@WVUBaseball) January 18, 2021
WVU finished 2020 with an 11-5 record, winning five of its final six games. When the NCAA stopped the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, WVU had just begun receiving votes in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association’s Top 30 rankings.
The Mountaineers will return much of its roster from last season for 2021. The key departure will be senior left fielder/relief pitcher Braden Zarbnisky who signed a professional contract with the Philadelphia Phillies over the summer. Zarbnisky led the Mountaineers with one of the highest batting averages in the nation, .431, in 2020.
Other than Zarbnisky, the Mountaineers are expected to return all eight of their other offensive starters; Matt McCormick (1B), Austin Davis (RF), Tyler Doanes (2B), Kevin Brophy (3B), Victor Scott (CF), Paul McIntosh (C), Tevin Tucker (SS) and Vince Ippoliti (DH). The team will also add top-100 hitter Hudson Byorick, an outfielder who transferred to WVU from Wofford in the offseason.
On the mound, the Mountaineers will return their entire starting rotation from 2019; Jackson Wolf (3-1, 1.05), Ryan Bergert (2-1, 2.92), Jake Carr (2-1, 1.52) and Tyler Strechay (2-1, 3.07). Zarbnisky will obviously not be returning to WVU’s bullpen, but relievers Zach Ottinger, Skylar Gonzalez, Jacob Watters and Madison Jeffrey will all be back for 2021.