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Mountaineers might keep ace in hole

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia might well go into its final series of the Big 12 regular season without its pitching ace.

By choice.

Harrison Musgrave, certainly one of the front-runners for the league's pitcher of the year award, won't start WVU's first game of a three-game set with Oklahoma State in Stillwater tonight. And he might not pitch at all.

"We'll decide on Friday if he's going to pitch at all,'' first-year coach Randy Mazey said.

It's not that this weekend's series isn't important. It is. The Mountaineers (30-23, 12-9 Big 12) are tied with Oklahoma for second place in the league behind Kansas State, which is 14-7 in conference play. The combination of results this weekend could give the Mountaineers the league's regular-season title in their first year in the Big 12.

But if by Friday it appears that the chances for a league title are out of reach, Mazey said he will keep Musgrave in reserve. The sophomore pitched a day late last week because of a rainout and the OSU series this week begins a day earlier than normal, which compromises Musgrave's rest.

"Harrison's been going this entire season every seven days,'' Mazey said. "He got pushed back a day [last week when a Friday game against TCU was moved to Saturday because of rain] and we're starting this series a day early.

"If it was just one day it wouldn't be a big deal, but two days is.''

Mazey's plan for Musgrave is, of course, flexible. For instance, if WVU wins the opener tonight - senior Dan Dierdorff will pitch that one - he will consider using Musgrave. But Kansas State's three-game series at home against Oklahoma is Friday through Sunday - WVU and OSU play today through Saturday - so some of it might be guesswork.

If Musgrave doesn't start a game this weekend, Mazey's thought is that he will be plenty rested for the Big 12 tournament that begins next Wednesday in Oklahoma City.

"We'll pitch him if we have a chance to win the league, but if it's just for seeding, probably not,'' Mazey said. "He might pitch an inning or two somewhere to keep sharp, but we'd rather have him fresh for the conference tournament.''

Musgrave is 8-1 with a 2.14 ERA and has become only the second pitcher in league history to win the conference's pitcher of the week award four times in a season. He's won it three of the last four weeks, including last week when he pitched a 14-strikeout shutout against TCU.

Oklahoma State (36-13, 11-9) also has a chance to still win the league's regular-season title. Like TCU last week, the Cowboys are rich in pitching, but also rank second in the league in team batting.

Tonight's first game of the series begins at 7:30 p.m. (EDT), followed by another night game Friday and a Saturday afternoon finale.

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.

 


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