The West Virginia University baseball team enters its final regular-season series at Oklahoma State starting at 7:30 p.m. today, but how much the No. 20 Cowboys will see Mountaineers star pitcher Harrison Musgrave remains up in the air.
Musgrave -- who was named Big 12 pitcher of the week, Louisville Slugger national player of the week and NCBWA national pitcher of the week after striking out 14 on Saturday in a complete-game shutout of TCU -- will start this weekend if WVU (30-22, 12-9) has a chance to win the Big 12, Coach Randy Mazey said Wednesday. The Mountaineers enter the weekend tied for second with Oklahoma and two games behind conference leader Kansas State.
If all this weekend's series means is conference tournament seeding, Musgrave could get an inning or two of touch-up work to get ready for the tournament, which starts Wednesday. Musgrave has pitched every seventh day this season, Mazey said. His start against TCU was pushed back a day because of rain and the OSU series starts a day earlier than normal.
"One day's difference wouldn't mean much but two days' difference I think would, maybe not affect him this start, but may affect his next start in the conference tournament," Mazey said. "We don't want to expend his pitch count because next week is a short week also. We don't want to give him back-to-back short weeks."
Right-hander Dan Dierdorff will start the first game versus Oklahoma State, with lefty John Means scheduled to start the second game. Game three's starter was still to be announced.
That the Mountaineers are even in the position to win the conference is a 180-degree twist from others' expectations of the team entering the season. WVU was picked to finish last in the Big 12 and Mazey prepared the team for that and the adversity of the season's arduous travel. Now that the Mountaineers have surprised many, he's had to flip-flop his approach to teach them how to handle success.
"They've actually responded really well," he said. "They haven't gotten caught up in any of the hype, you know, 'you're in first place, you're in second place' type stuff. We continue to just grind out at-bats and take pitches like we did to get us where we are."
The Mountaineers enter today's matchup with the Cowboys (36-13, 11-9) in a three-game slump, losing the last two to TCU and dropping a mid-week game to Marshall, 6-5, on Tuesday in Beckley. Mazey rested several of his starters against the Herd to prepare for the Oklahoma State series. The Cowboys own the conference's second-best batting average (.291) behind Kansas State and the third-best ERA (2.78) behind Texas and TCU.
WVU faces back-to-back standout pitching between the Horned Frogs last weekend and OSU this weekend, but Mazey said TCU's pitching staff goes about 12-deep when it comes to dominant numbers. The Cowboys have great numbers, too, but they reach about five or six pitchers deep.
"If we can get a little bit deeper into their pen," Mazey said, "then we might have a chance."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.r...@dailymail.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.