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WVU Should Have Edge Against Pitt in Baseball Backyard Brawl at PNC Park



JJ Wetherholt and Tevin Tucker wait in the infield at PNC Park

WVU faces off against Pittsburgh this evening in the first Backyard Brawl of the 2023 college baseball season. 

The game takes place at PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Mountaineers played in a scrimmage against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field earlier this season, so this marks the second big-league stadium they can knock off their bucket list

Mountaineers’ head coach Randy Mazey will start freshman Carson Estridge (2-0, 0.92 ERA), throwing the right-hander into the rivalry fire in his first career start. The Panthers counter with junior right-hander Matthew Fernandez (1-2, 4.26 ERA).

The Panthers (16-18) have hovered around .500 all season as they struggle to find consistency from their pitchers. Their 6.67 team ERA ranks No. 212 in Division 1, more than two runs worse than the 25-11 Mountaineers 4.39 team ERA, which is good for No. 39.

Wetherholt Returns Home

Mountaineers’ star second baseman JJ Wetherholt (who grew up half an hour outside Pittsburgh, playing for nearby Mars Area High School) hurt his hand sliding into second base during the team’s weekend series at Oklahoma State. His x-rays came back negative the following morning, and the Mountaineers declared his status as day-to-day.

Five days removed from the injury, his ability to play in the game could make a huge impact. Wetherholt is hitting .451 with eight home runs this season and a 1.264 OPS: while the Mountaineers’ offense is potent from top to bottom—they’ve scored the 38th-most runs of any team in Division 1 ball—they could certainly use a boost from Wetherholt and his bat in his return to the Keystone State. 

West Virginia won the season series last year. After an early loss at the Panthers’ home stadium, the Mountaineers won 3-2 at PNC Park and blew the doors off the Panthers 9-1 in the Morgantown rubber match. 

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