Mountaineers look to shake up Big 12 standings with three-game series at Baylor

Gold and Blue Nation

West Virginia baseball heads to Waco for its second Big 12 road trip of the season against Baylor. The three-game series gets underway Friday at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU, with games two and three going off Saturday and Sunday afternoons on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.

The all-time series between West Virginia (11-12, 3-3 Big 12) and Baylor (19-10, 1-5 Big 12) is a short one, going back to WVU’s entrance into the Big 12 in 2013 — but in that span, it is one of the most even. The Bears currently lead the series 11-9 — which means the Mountaineers have the chance to recoup the upper hand if all goes well for them this weekend.

WVU ace Jackson Wolf will open the series on the mound for West Virginia (3-2, 2.36 ERA). The 6-7 lefty is coming off his third win of the season against Oklahoma State, in which he notched a season-high eight strikeouts in 6.1 innings of work.

Wolf will be up against Baylor lefty Tyler Thomas (3-2, 1.65 ERA). The junior has set himself apart through his seven appearances this season, leading the Bears with 45 strikeouts — the seventh-highest mark in the Big 12.

Righty Adam Tulloch and lefty Ben Hampton will round out the weekend for West Virginia, while righties Blake Helton and Hayden Kettler will do so for Baylor.

Game one could very well be a low-scoring affair with these two hurlers on the rubber. Wolf and Thomas are two of the toughest pitchers to hit in the Big 12 this season — batters have the second-lowest batting against Thomas at .171, which was helped by a complete game 4-hit appearance against North Carolina A&T. Wolf isn’t far behind in this mark, keeping hitters to a .179 average — the fourth-lowest in the conference.

Of course, both team’s hitters will look to make a dent in these marks, and Wolf’s is especially in jeopardy. Baylor is the best batting team in the Big 12 through the first week of April, combining for a .307 average. West Virginia, on the other hand, is slotted at eighth with an average of .254.

Both squads are led offensively by a freshman, with Baylor’s Jared McKenzie sitting among the top ranks in the conference. The outfielder is currently hitting .354 on the season, which is good for No. 8 in the conference.

That doesn’t mean WVU freshman Mikey Kluska is anything to sneeze at, though. The White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia native tops the team with 30 hits and has shown a propensity to get those knocks at critical times — including a memorable walk-off homer against Central Michigan in March.

This series is sure to shake up the Big 12 standings. WVU currently sits three games back of first at 3-3, in a tie with No. 8 Texas Tech, while Baylor has some ground to make up from the seven spot at 1-5 — tied with Kansas and Oklahoma.

There is also a career milestone on the line over the weekend. Randy Mazey is just one victory away from win No. 250 at West Virginia, as he currently sits with 436 wins in his career as a head coach.

The Mountaineers and the Bears square off Friday at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU, and Saturday at 4 p.m. ET and Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.

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