Blaine Traxel tossed his fifth complete-game gem of the season on Saturday in No. 18 West Virginia’s win over Baylor. Traxel’s latest nine-inning start was arguably his best.
The California native shut out the last-place Bears. He struck out six hitters, didn’t issue a walk, nor did he allow any Baylor runner to get into scoring position. Traxel sat BU hitters down in order in five of the nine innings he pitched.
Traxel (6-3, 3.05 ERA) came to West Virginia with a reputation of being a workhorse on the mound, and he has lived up to that billing in his first year pitching in the Big 12 Conference.
For starters, Traxel has now matched WVU’s total number of complete games thrown from 2018 through 2022. The only Mountaineer hurler to toss more than one complete game over that stretch is Alek Manoah, who did it twice during the 2019 campaign.
The 2014 season was the last time West Virginia’s pitching staff combined for at least five complete games, and 2013 was the last time a WVU pitcher went the distance at least three times in one year. Harrison Musgrave did so three times that season.
With his nine-inning shutout on Saturday, Traxel became the first Mountaineer hurler to record five complete games in one season since Josh Whitlock in 2007. He also regained sole possession of first place in the country in the statistic.
The Burbank, California native hasn’t been stellar just by West Virginia standards. He is going the distance in ways rarely seen since the Big 12 Conference realigned in 2013, or any Power 5 conference in recent history.
With his latest complete game on Saturday, Traxel became the only pitcher from any Power 5 conference team to throw five complete games in one season since the start of the 2017 season. Maryland’s Taylor Bloom was the last to do so in 2016. Traxel and Bloom are the only Power 5 pitchers to accomplish the feat since the start of the 2015 college baseball season.
When Traxel threw his fourth complete against Xavier on March 25, he became the first Big 12 pitcher to have four CGs in one season since Kansas’ Ryan Cyr in 2019.
By going the distance on Saturday, Traxel became the first Big 12 pitcher to record five complete games in one season since 2014. Kansas’ Frank Duncan and TCU’s Preston Morrison each accomplished the feat that year.
Major League starter Andrew Heaney is the most recent pitcher in the Big 12 Conference to toss six complete games in one season. He parlayed that season into being selected ninth overall in the 2012 MLB Draft that summer. Heaney completed six games on the mound with Oklahoma State prior to West Virginia and TCU joining the Big 12.
With three more starts on the mound remaining in the regular season for Traxel, it’s possible he could match Heaney’s total. If he does, it would set the bar for most complete games by any pitcher in the conference in the current construction of the Big 12, fitting since the conference is set to change again during the 2023-24 athletic calendar.