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UC softball team finding its way

By Tom Bragg, Sportswriter

The University of Charleston softball team owns a 24-14 overall record, but an 8-8 mark in Mountain East Conference play has the Golden Eagles among the middle of the conference pack.

That’s unacceptable to second-year UC coach Raymond Loeser.

“You never want to sit at .500 but you go back and you’ve got four losses that you’ve lead a game in the sixth inning or later,” Loeser said. “If you take those four losses away you’re 12-4 and not in the middle of the pack.”

There is time, however, for the Golden Eagles to move toward the top of the standings. UC has 14 games remaining, with 12 of those against MEC competition. Included in that are doubleheaders against Notre Dame, Urbana and West Virginia State — all teams currently above Charleston in the MEC.

“Going out and executing is the biggest thing. It’s got to improve,” Loeser said. “We’ve got to figure out and keep working on finishing games.”

A big part of the success UC has enjoyed this season has been the pitching of junior Courtney Fain and sophomore Morgan Aguirre.

Fain, an Urbana, Ohio, native, is currently second among MEC pitchers with 116 stirkeouts (in 102.1 innings pitched) with Aguirre, a former standout at Logan High School and captain of the 2012 Class AAA All-State team, just behind in third with 113 strikeouts (in 96 innings).

Fain has improved her punchout total from last season when she fanned 101 in 138.1 innings and Aguirre is on pace to break her mark of 133 strikeouts (in 151.1 innings) from a year ago.

Loeser said another season of experience and being able to use a variety of pitches has been the biggest factor in their growth.

“Morgan relies on a fastball to get ahead and a rise ball to get out,” he said. “Courtney relies on keeping the ball down and a curveball to get out. When you face them they’re not the same and that’s good. If you constantly face the same thing over and over all you have to do is time it and hit. Now (with them) you’ve got to cover a bunch of different things.”

UC is scheduled to host Notre Dame for a doubleheader Friday at 2 and 4 p.m.

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CHARLESTON MAY have a pair of dynamic pitchers, but the Golden Eagles’ counterparts at West Virginia State can boast of having two of the more dangerous hitters in the MEC.

Senior Mattie Best, a Hemet, Calif., native, currently is third in the league with 35 runs batted in and is also tied for third in home runs with seven. Sophomore Sydney Kaplan, a Milton native and former standout at Cabell Midland, is second in the MEC with nine home runs (just behind the 10 hit by Wheeling Jesuit’s Angie Reddick).

State (21-19, 9-9 MEC), like UC, will look to move up the league standings as the regular season winds down. The Yellow Jackets host Urbana on Friday for a doubleheader and Notre Dame on Saturday, also for a doubleheader. State then plays two at UC on April 22 before closing the schedule with home doubleheaders against Concord (April 26) and UVa.-Wise (April 27).

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IT HAS been a rough month for coach Randy Mazey and the West Virginia University baseball team. Since beating Pitt on April 1 the Mountaineers are winless in seven games, including series sweeps of the team by Big 12 rivals TCU and Oklahoma State.

WVU (16-15, 2-6 Big 12) does have several players among the league leaders in various statistical categories, but that has not translated into wins recently.

Pitcher Harrison Musgrave, last season’s Big 12 Pitcher of the Year and a Bridgeport High School graduate, is among the league’s best again with 56 strikeouts and a 1.73 ERA in 62.1 innings pitched. He’s 8.09 strikeouts per nine innings and 1.73 walks per nine innings are also among the best in the conference. At the plate, Bobby Boyd is third in the Big 12 with a .364 batting average and second in the league with 14 stolen bases. Billy Fleming (.358) and Ryan McBroom (.347, 35 RBI) are also among the Big 12 leaders.

The Mountaineers had an opportunity to snap the losing streak Tuesday in their home game against Ohio State that finished too late for press time.

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MARSHALL WILL take a break from Conference USA action this weekend to host WVU Tech in Huntington. The Thundering Herd (14-20, 8-9 C-USA) enter the four-game series (scheduled to begin Thursday) after dropping two of three games in Texas at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Marshall’s games scheduled for Tuesday at Akron was canceled due to poor weather. Marshall has played three games at the Kennedy Center in Huntington.

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SEVERAL PLAYERS with ties to the Mountain State have made news at baseball’s highest level early in the season.

San Diego Padres second baseman Jedd Gyorko, a Morgantown native and former standout at University High and WVU, recently agreed to a six-year, $35 million contract extension. Another West Virginia native, Atlanta relief pitcher David Carpenter, picked up his first save of the season (and just the second of his career) Monday with the Braves’ usual closer Craig Kimbrell nursing a sore shoulder. Carpenter, like Gyorko, was a standout at WVU. He played his high school ball at East Fairmont and was drafted as a catcher by the St. Louis Cardinals before making the move to pitching. He has since appeared for three Major League teams (Houston, Toronto and Atlanta) in his three-plus seasons in the big leagues.

Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Dan Strailey is not from West Virginia, but did play collegiately at Marshall. Strailey was the scheduled starter for the A’s late game Tuesday against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and in his last start struck out five over seven innings on April 10 to get his first win of the season and help Oakland sweep the Minnesota Twins.


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