By Cam Huffman
Snow, ice, cold, shovels and salt.
It must be baseball season.
While folks in the Mountain State would have to dig a foot or more to find a baseball diamond, the West Virginia Mountaineers will get the season started today when they face No. 8 Louisville at noon, the first of three games in the Homewood Suites Tournament in Charleston, S.C.
WVU will play Delaware Saturday at approximately 5 p.m. — a change in the original schedule because of some travel issues for Delaware — and tournament host, The Citadel, Sunday at 1 p.m.
Head coach Randy Mazey is sending his big gun to the mound today. Harrison Musgrave, the 2013 Big 12 Pitcher of the Year, will get the start, coming off a sophomore campaign in which he went 9-1 with a 2.17 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 95 1/3 innings.
“He deserves to grab the ball on the first day of the season,” Mazey told WVUSports.com. “We’ll send him out there and see what he can do.”
Junior right-hander Sean Carley will get the start Saturday. The Air Force transfer, coming off Tommy John surgery, will make his first start in two seasons. The third game will be the job of junior lefty John Means, who was 4-4 last season with a 3.34 ERA.
“I think the strength of our team is going to be starting pitching,” said Mazey. “Sean Carley and John Means are both throwing as good as they have since I’ve known them. We couldn’t have planned it better if we tried.”
The Mountaineers, picked seventh in the Big 12, are coming off a magical first run through the Big 12, during which they went 33-26 overall and finished third in the league after being a unanimous pick to finish last.
Senior first baseman Ryan McBroom, junior second baseman Billy Fleming, junior shortstop Taylor Munden, senior left fielder Jacob Rice and junior center fielder Bobby Boyd all return from that time. Rice led WVU with a .333 batting average. McBroom was the team leader in home runs, with 12, and RBIs, with 48.
Louisville is a unanimous pick to win the American Athletic Conference after going to the College World Series last year. The Cardinals are led at the plate by outfielders Cole Sturgeon and Jeff Gardner. Sturgeon hit .339 with 33 RBIs last season, while Gardner posted a .337 average with 43 RBIs.
“There’s a couple of different philosophies there,” said Mazey of taking on such a strong team in the opener. “But if you play one of the best teams on your schedule right out of the gate, it kind of gives you a barometer of where you are for the rest of the season.”
Delaware was picked eighth in the Colonial Athletic Association, while The Citadel was picked second in the Southern Conference.
WVU will spend some time in warm weather climates, including California and South Carolina, over the first month of the season before playing its first in-state game against Marshall in Charleston on March 18. The first true home game will be March 25 against Pitt , with the Big 12 opener March 28 in Charleston against Baylor.
The Mountaineers will play those four games in Charleston and one against Virginia Tech in Princeton on May 6. The rest of the home schedule will be contested at Hawley Field in Morgantown after the team traveled to different parts of the state last year to avoid that home field while a new stadium is being constructed.
WVU will not make a return trip to Beckley’s Linda K. Epling Stadium — where it played in front of packed houses and swept a Big 12 series against Kansas last year — this season.
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.