By Cam Huffman
Harrison Musgrave was used to being a star.
The Harrison County native was a three-time first-team all-state selection during his time at Bridgeport High School, and his freshman season at West Virginia University in 2011 included four wins — a complete game shutout of Georgetown among them — and 41 strikeouts in 56 2/3 innings before a shoulder injury cut the season short.
So slowly working his way back after missing the 2012 season to recover from Tommy John surgery, Musgrave was more than surprised at the conversation he had when he walked into the office of first-year head coach Randy Mazey at the conclusion of the fall practice season.
“We said, ‘Harrison, you’ve got to go one way or the other here,’” Mazey remembered. “‘You can either refocus on being a good pitcher in the Big 12 or, if you continue to do what you’re doing, you’re just going to be mediocre and you might need to find another program to pitch for. We’re not striving for mediocrity here. We want players that are committed to being good players in our conference, which is one of the best in the nation.’”
“That wasn’t a conversation I was expecting to have,” Musgrave admitted. “He challenged me. I was overweight, and I’m a laid-back person. He’s really high-energy, so we butted heads.
“But he gave me an option to change what I needed to change and improve or not pitch. That’s something you never want to hear, so I made the commitment to get in the weight room, change my nutrition and do the things they wanted me to do.”
The changes weren’t minor. Musgrave’s daily routine had to undergo a drastic reformation.
“It was pretty different,” he admitted. “I’m not a big fan of running, but I made a point to run some extra stuff. I didn’t eat as much junk food as I’d like to. It wasn’t that bad. But it took a little time for it to work out.”
The results quickly became obvious.
Musgrave’s first start wasn’t a great one — he gave up four runs on seven hits in four innings against North Florida — but the next time out he went eight innings against Wake Forest, allowing just two runs on five hits for his first win of the year.
That started the ball rolling, and the sophomore eventually earned the nod in WVU’s first-ever Big 12 game on the road at Kansas State.
He went 6 1/3 innings, allowing just two runs on two hits for his second win of the season.
He hasn’t lost since.
Now 6-1 overall and a perfect 4-0 in Big 12 play, Musgrave has beaten Texas Tech and Baylor, and on Friday he threw a complete game shutout on the road in Austin, Tex., in a 1-0 victory over the Longhorns.
“It’s one of the most historic baseball schools you’re going to find,” said Musgrave of Texas, which has won six national championships, appeared in 34 College World Series, produced stars like Roger Clemens and Huston Street and sent more than 100 players to the major leagues. “Going in and beating them to set the tone has to be the biggest story.
“To pitch against teams you hear about and do well against them, it’s been quite a dream season so far.”
Musgrave is starting to receive notice for his work.
On Monday, he was named the Big 12 Pitcher of the Week for the second time, and he was also WVU’s Athlete of the Week.
His six wins rank fourth in the Big 12. His 31 strikeouts in 28 innings of conference play rank fourth, and his 1.29 ERA against conference opponents ranks 10th.
“He’s been outstanding,” said Mazey. “He refocused himself nutritionally and academically. He transformed his body and got in the weight room and got stronger. He comes to practice now with enthusiasm and passion for what he’s trying to do.
“All the credit goes to him for transforming it. You can tell kids stuff like that until you’re blue in the face, but, ultimately, it comes down to if they’re willing to do it. He was willing to do it, and the results are speaking for themselves.”
Musgrave’s next start will come on the mound at Beckley’s Linda K. Epling Stadium. The Mountaineers (23-18, 6-6 Big 12) will host Kansas (24-15, 9-6 Big 12) for a three-game series over the weekend, and Musgrave will be in his traditional role of Friday starter for the opening game that night at 6:30 p.m.
“It means everything,” said Mazey of having an ace like Musgrave to set the tone. “If you can win the first game of the series, that gives you a leg up to try to win the series.”
Tickets for this weekend’s series are available at Little General Stores in Raleigh and Fayette counties or by visiting www.wvugame.com. Tickets are $7 in advance or $9 on the day of the game. Group rates are also available.
— E-mail: chuffman
@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.