Following West Virginia’s loss to Penn State Tuesday night, the Mountaineers have lost three of their last four games and are just 5-5 over their last 10 contests.
As evident Tuesday in Happy Valley, fielding miscues has been one trouble spot for West Virginia as of late. The Mountaineers have committed 16 errors in the last 10 games, and multiple errors in three out of their last four contests.
Another contributing factor to the team’s recent struggles has been a propensity to give up the long ball.
Entering this week, only two pitching staffs in the Big 12 had given up more home runs than West Virginia’s. A majority of the power damage inflicted by the opposition has come over the last three weeks.
Starting with WVU’s win over Hofstra on March 22, the Mountaineer pitching staff has surrendered 29 homers over its last 13 games. That’s an average of 2.23 home runs allowed per game. Despite that, WVU is 7-4 over that stretch and was featured in the national Top 25 rankings.
West Virginia has allowed 21 of those home runs since starting Big 12 play. Beginning with the March 31 conference opener against Kansas State, WVU pitchers have averaged 2.65 round trippers allowed per game. In fact, by giving up just one home run in Tuesday’s road loss to Penn State, the Mountaineers ended a streak of seven consecutive games of allowing multiple home runs. West Virginia is just 4-4 over that span.
“That’s something that’s hard to address,” head coach Randy Mazey said following his team’s loss to Kansas last Saturday. “You just got to attack them with your best stuff, and if you make mistakes, good hitters do that.”
In all, West Virginia has surrendered a total of 38 homers this season, with 76 percent of them being given up over the last three weeks. It’s a surprising turn of events, given that the Mountaineers allowed just one home run over a nine-game stretch from March 10-21.
The tricky thing has been that opposing teams are now scoring almost exclusively with the long ball against West Virginia. Twenty-nine of the 42 runs surrendered over a seven-game stretch from March 31 through April 9 were courtesy of the dinger. That trend was bucked, somewhat, in State College, when just one of Penn State’s 11 runs was courtesy of the four-bagger.
“Hopefully, the pitchers will learn from that,” Mazey added. “You can’t just throw easy pitches to hit in the middle of the plate to any team in [the Big 12] and expect to get away with it.”
West Virginia’s recent struggles with the home run are abnormal for the program under Mazey.
Last season, WVU played just three games in which it surrendered three or more bombs. The 2021 Mountaineers gave up three-plus homers just four times, and the 2019 club that hosted an NCAA Regional was dinged for three or more round-trippers in a game only thrice.
With more than 20 contests left on this year’s schedule, the Mountaineers have already surrendered three or more homers in a contest five times.