Television staff

Eyeing the potential of WVU’s 2023 launch staff

Take a look at WVU’s potential weapons for 2023

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The good news for Randy Mazey is that only three players on his 2022 roster have exhausted their eligibility. The bad news is that they are all pitchers.

WVU starting arms — or lack thereof — have been a problem all season. Sophomore Ben Hampton was the workaholic. He made a team-high 15 starts and led the Mountaineers in just about every pitching category. At 83.1 IP, Hampton held an 8-5 record (leading the team in wins) with a 4.66 ERA and 1.30 WHIP (best among starters).

Hampton was WVU’s only regular starter, retaining his spot on Saturday from the start of the season to its end. The final rotation of the weekend 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 closer preseason All-American before earning the Friday Night Nod midway through the season. He was No. 2 on staff with 75 strikeouts in 59.1 innings in 18 appearances and 11 starts. The Virginia right-hander threw 15 strikeouts against Texas last month, earning him National Player of the Week honors. 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 straight starts to complete the regular season, including two in Big 12 play. He finished a perfect 3-0 with a 3.49 ERA (best among starters), a 1 WHIP .34 with 31 strikeouts in 28.1 innings of work.

Sophomore Carlson Reed, freshmen Chris Sleeper and Michael Kilker as well as redshirt sophomore Tyler Stretchay were the other arms to see at least two or more starts last season.

Zach Bravo has made nine starts in 2022, but as one of three WVU graduate transfers, he no longer has eligibility. Reliable relievers Trey Braithwaite and Chase Smith join him on that list of surefire starts.

Braithwaite, the Navy’s all-time career stoppage leader, brought some of his magic to Mountain State. In 22 appearances in the bullpen, he struck out 36, 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 First Team All-Big 12 berth.

Smith, a transfer from Pitt, has been called upon to get the Mountaineers out of numerous traffic jams through his 25 appearances, the most out of the bullpen.

If he returned for 2023, chances are redshirt junior Noah Short would be West Virginia’s top reliever. He finished with a 4.25 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 29.2 innings of work.

Mazey had to go to the transfer gate for reinforcements on his 2022 pitching squad and he’ll have to do the same to build depth for 2023. One staffer entered the gate this offseason, Zach Ottinger.