MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The good news for Randy Mazey is only three players from his 2022 roster have exhausted their eligibility. The bad news is they are all pitchers.
The WVU starting arms — or lack thereof — were an issue all season. Sophomore Ben Hampton was the workhorse. He made a team-high 15 starts and led the Mountaineers in just about every pitching category. In 83.1 IP, Hampton held an 8-5 record (leading the team in wins) with a 4.66 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP (best among starters).
Hampton was WVU’s only consistent starter, holding his Saturday spot from the start of the season to its end. The final weekend rotation featured Jacob Watters and Aidan Major on either side of Hampton, but it saw a number of others fill those roles throughout the season.
Watters was a preseason All-American closer before earning the Friday night nod near the mid-point of the season. He was No. 2 on the staff with 75 strikeouts in 59.1 innings in 18 appearances and 11 starts. The righty from Virginia tossed a career-best 15 strikeouts vs. Texas last month, earning him a national player of the week honor. As a rising senior, Watters could potentially be selected in the MLB Draft which would leave an opening in the rotation for next season.
Major made five consecutive starts to end the regular season, including two in Big 12 play. He finished with a perfect 3-0 record with a 3.49 ERA (best among starters), a 1.34 WHIP with 31 strikeouts in 28.1 innings of work.
Sophomore Carlson Reed, freshmen Chris Sleeper and Michael Kilker along with redshirt sophomore Tyler Stretchay were the other arms to see at least two or more starts this past season.
Zach Bravo made nine starts in 2022, but as one of WVU’s three grad transfers, he has run out of eligibility. Reliable relievers Trey Braithwaite and Chase Smith join him on that list of surefire departures.
Braithwaite, Navy’s all-time leader in career saves, brought some of his magic to the Mountain State. In 22 appearances of the bullpen, he struck out 36 batters, the most of any WVU reliever this season. He led WVU with eight saves, a 1.70 ERA, a 1.03 WHIP, and a perfect 3-0 record — good enough for a spot on the All-Big 12 First Team.
Smith, a transfer from Pitt, was called upon to get the Mountaineers out of numerous jams through his 25 appearances, the most out of the pen.
Should he return for 2023, it’s likely redshirt junior Noah Short will be West Virginia’s top reliever. He finished with a 4.25 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP in 29.2 innings of work.
Mazey had to go to the transfer portal for some reinforcements on his 2022 pitching staff and he’s going to have to do the same to build depth for 2023. One member of the staff has entered the portal this offseason, Zach Ottinger.