MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — On Friday, Alek Manoah will be the first former WVU baseball pitcher to start a game in the MLB Postseason.
WVU’s single-season strikeout leader was named the Toronto Blue Jays’ game one starter for its American League Wild Card series against the Seattle Mariners after an All-Star 2022 campaign when he finished with a 16-7 record and a 2.24 ERA. While the Toronto ace is achieving a first for the Old Gold and Blue, he will become the ninth Mountaineer to appear on an MLB diamond in the playoffs. Here’s a look at the list, which spans nine decades of baseball history:
Johnny Gorsica, Detroit Tigers
- Postseason appearances: 1940 World Series
Gorsica, a right-hander from New Jersey, made history in 1940 when he became the first former Mountaineer to not only appear in the MLB Postseason but also the World Series. He made two appearances in the Fall Classic against the Cincinnati Reds, allowing one run and four hits in 11.1 innings on the bump.
Unfortunately for Gorsica, the Tigers fell in the series in seven games.
Paul Popovich, Pittsburgh Pirates
- Postseason appearances: 1974 NLCS
More than three decades after Gorsica took the mound in the World Series, Paul Popovich became the second WVU player to play in the MLB postseason. The West Virginia native played in three games as a pinch-hitter for the Pirates against the Los Angeles Dodgers, recording a hit in all three games.
Popovich had five at-bats in the series and finished with a .600 batting average, but the Pirates fell to the eventual pennant-winning Dodgers.
Joe Hudson, Boston Red Sox
- Postseason appearances: 1995 ALDS
Hudson was the first former WVU player to appear in the American League playoffs, tossing one inning and allowing two hits against Cleveland in the ALDS. Cleveland swept the Red Sox in three games.
Steve Kline, St. Louis Cardinals
- Postseason appearances: 2001 NLDS, 2002 NLDS and NLCS, 2004 NLDS
Kline made the most Postseason appearances by a WVU player across three different runs by the St. Louis Cardinals in the early 2000s, pitching in 13 games for the Cardinals. He was a contributor in their run to the World Series in 2004, but did not appear in the Fall Classic as his team was swept by the curse-breaking Boston Red Sox that year.
Kline holds a 0.96 postseason ERA with two saves and a loss.
Dustin Nippert, Arizona Diamondbacks and Texas Rangers
- Postseason appearances: 2007 NLCS, 2010 ALDS
Three years after Kline’s Cardinals fell in the World Series, Dustin Nippert had his own shot to make the Fall Classic with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He made two appearances and threw 2.1 innings for Arizona (which, coincidentally, is owned by WVU alumnus Ken Kendrick), striking out two batters and allowing one hit. Unfortunately for Nippert, the Colorado Rockies swept the Diamondbacks for the NL Pennant.
Nippert took another three years to punch his ticket to the Fall Classic as a part of the Texas Rangers’ bullpen in 2010. Nippert pitched 1.0 innings in one game in the ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays, allowing two earned runs in the Rangers’ game three loss. Texas took the series in five games before winning the AL Pennant over the Yankees in six.
David Carpenter, Atlanta Braves
- Postseason appearances: 2013 NLDS
Keeping with the theme of three-year intervals, Morgantown native David Carpenter pitched three games for the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS, recording 2.2 innings and allowing two home runs and three hits while striking out three Dodgers in the series. The Dodgers took the series in three games.
Harrison Musgrave, Colorado Rockies
- Postseason appearances: 2018 NLDS
Musgrave’s short stint in the big leagues included a pair of appearances in the NLDS with the Rockies against the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Morgantown native made his first playoff appearance in game one, tossing a scoreless two-thirds of an inning and allowing a hit and two walks with two strikeouts. He came back in game two, but his stat line wasn’t quite as pretty — on hit, one walk and one earned run without recording an out.
The Rockies were swept by the Brewers in three games.
Jedd Gyorko, Milwaukee Brewers
- Postseason appearances: 2020 NL Wild Card
Arguably the most celebrated position player in WVU baseball history had a lengthy career in Major League Baseball starting in 2013, but he didn’t get a shot at postseason competition until his final season in 2020.
Gyorko played in both of the games in Milwaukee’s Wild Card loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, recording one hit in seven at-bats.