MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Optimists naturally look for silver-linings when experiencing sub-optimal situations. West Virginia head coach Randy Mazey is no different. His glass has been half-full all week.
Mazey and the Mountaineers find themselves in the middle of their first losing streak in the last two years. With Thursday’s loss to No. 18 Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Tournament, WVU is victims of five-straight losses.
Unlike their three loss to Texas last week, there were multiple bright spots on the pitcher’s mound from which to take away during the Big 12 Tournament.
Mazey announced Tuesday that freshman David Hagaman (1-2, 1.02 ERA) would make his first collegiate start in WVU’s first-round matchup against Texas Tech, and while the spotlight is always bright on freshman in big situations, Hagaman’s promotion was not surprising. Coming into Wednesday’s game, he was on a streak of 13.1-straight innings pitched without allowing an earned run. During that stretch, he struck out 14 batters while walking just two.
The box score from his starting debut was not necessarily illuminating – 4 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 7 K – but based off Mazey’s comments postgame, it is safe to assume the freshman could be considered for a starting spot during NCAA Regionals.
“[Hagaman] is one of our best arms,” Mazey said. “He went out there and threw up a zero [in the first inning], and I thought he did a really good job. He threw a lot of pitches that they swung and missed at. I was really, really encouraged by David Hagaman today. He’s earned the right, if we make it that far in the postseason, to start another game.”
WVU’s 3-2 loss to Oklahoma State Thursday that eliminated the Mountaineers was even more gut-wrenching given the close score and intense nature of the matchup. After the game, Mazey was quick to applaud starter Ben Hampton (5-3, 4.17 ERA) on one if his best starts of the season.
Hampton suffered two runs in the first inning, but neither of them were charged to his name given that an error extended the inning. He did not let another run cross in six full innings of work. He is the first Mountaineer pitcher to go more than five innings since Blaine Traxel’s eight-inning performance against Texas Tech.
“I always our trust our offense and they’ve been great for us all year. So I knew if we could keep [the score] within two, we’d have a great chance of winning the game. We have some great guys in the bullpen, like Carlson Reed, waiting, so I just knew I needed to to give us four, five (or) six strong innings and keep us in the game.”
It was the first time in the last two seasons that he did not allow an earned run during a start. He struck out two hitters and allowed just three hits.
“That may have been the biggest thing that came out of today,” Mazey said. “We needed [Hampton] to pitch well today, and he did. That’s really encouraging moving forward. That’s one of the things that we needed to happen once we came down here.”
Hampton earned First-Team All-Big 12 honors earlier this week, while Hagaman was tabbed as an Honorable Mention. Relievers Carlson Reed (First-Team) and Aidan Major (Honorable Mention) also received accolades.
Blaine Traxel – WVU’s innings-leader and a Second-Team All-Big 12 Pitcher – did not pitch in the Big 12 Tournament, though it’s almost certain Traxel would have received the ball for a third-round game.