With the 2017 campaign already underway, Coach Randy Mazey and the WVU baseball team will try to use a hot start to push for their first postseason berth since 1996. Look for these five Mountaineers to be leading the way.
Cole Austin – No. 28 | 3rd Base
The sophomore infielder is primed to go above and beyond his successful freshman campaign. Cole Austin went for .221/.270/.359 in his first year in a Mountaineer uniform. He was selected to the 2016 All-Big 12 rookie squad last year and has so far avoided the dreaded sophomore slump.
Through seven games this season, Austin has the team’s highest on-base percentage (OBP) at .485 and is second in batting average (BA) at .370. He’s also mashed two homers in as many games against the defending national champion Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, where WVU swept the champs. Austin will be posted up at the hot corner this season alongside sophomore shortstop Jimmy Galusky, who aims to lock down the left side defensively for the Mountaineers.
BJ Myers – No. 33 | Pitcher
BJ Myers, a junior, is the most experienced arm WVU retains from last year’s squad. He’s thrown 18 more innings than anyone else that returned for the ‘Eers. Myers was 5-3 in 17 total appearances last season, including ten starts.
Through two starts this season, including his opening day stint, he is 1-1 with 13.1 IP with 10 strikeouts. He’s held opponents to an impressive .208 BA against. What might be most encouraging from Myers so far though is his control; he’s only walked one batter this season. If Myers can continue to dominate hitters not only early – but late in games – you can bet the Mountaineers will win a lot of his starts.
Jackson Cramer – No. 13 | 1st Base
The senior first baseman posted an impressive slash line in 2016 at .300/.416/.535, and is out to another successful start in 2017. Jackson Cramer has been selected to the All-Big 12 second-team each of the last two seasons, and became the fifth player in conference history to earn three Big 12 Player of the Week awards in the same season. Coach Mazey has him sandwiched between Darius Hill and Austin at the cleanup spot, which looked pretty effective in the 22-9 blowout at Coastal Carolina last weekend. The power Cramer displayed in 2016 will certainly translate into 2017, and looks to easily pass his season-high homerun count (nine).
Darius Hill – No. 31 | Right Field
Hill was the workhorse for WVU in 2016, starting a team-high 58 games, while also owning the most plate appearances. As a reigning Freshman All-American, Hill has been manning right field for the Mountaineers in 2017 and is leading the team in BA at .387.
Even though he’s only a sophomore, Hill will be at the forefront of the Mountaineers’ success this season, and will contend for a spot on this year’s collegiate All-American team with another solid campaign.
Conner Dotson – No. 10 | Pitcher
The relief-pitcher-turned-starter is looking to make the most of his new role after only making four starts a year ago. However, the junior does not lack experience. He made 16 relief appearances in 2016, which rank second on the team after closer Blake Smith.
He’s been white-hot in his 2-0 start thus far with a 1.50 ERA. His 10-strikeout performance propelled the Mountaineers to a 4-1 win over Coastal Carolina. Dotson, along with Myers, will shoulder most of the workload for the young WVU pitching staff, and will hopefully make his veteran presence felt in the dugout this season.
WVU (5-2) returns to action Thursday, March 2 when they travel to Louisiana to play Nicholls. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. The Mountaineers will not return to Monongalia County Ballpark until March 13, when Morehead State visits Morgantown.