MORGANTOWN - Believe it or not, the collegiate baseball season gets under way this coming week.
Coach Greg Van Zant takes his young West Virginia team to Tampa, Fla., this coming Friday to compete in the Big East - Big Ten Challenge.
The Mountaineers meet Northwestern at 10 a.m. Friday in the first of four games.
Then they play Penn State at 4 p.m. Saturday.
In Sunday's two contest, it will be Iowa at 8:45 a.m. and then Michigan at 12:30 p.m.
Van Zant, in his 18th year at the WVU helm, has only 15 players from last season's squad that finished with a 28-27 record. The other 18 are first-year performers.
He thinks more pitching depth this year could be West Virginia's chief strength. "We also have some position players that can do some good things,"
"But with so many new guys, they're all feeling their way through thing, Van Zant said. "So every day in practice, when we do something, it's the first time the new guys have done it."
However, Van Zant added, "they're doing a good job. We probably had our best practice of the year last Tuesday. They give you everything you could ask."
There are only 12 letterman on the roster. So it should be interesting to see how the Mountaineers develop as the season moves along. "Brady Wilson in the center field is extremely fast," the veteran coach said. "Left fielder Matt Frazer can hit the ball out of the park. And we have a real athletic short stop in John Polonius.
"So we've got some guys who can do some different things."
He named Marshall Thompson as the top pitcher.
The left-hander had a 5-4 record last year. He's throwing the ball well.
Cory Walter, a sophomore right-hander, also has been pitching well indoors where WVU has been practicing. Thompson likely will be the leading starter Cory Walter will be the other starter. Other pitchers mentioned by Van Zant include LH Eric Hinkle, a senior who had Tomy John Surgery in 2011, Ryan a closer; and Josh Harlow.
WVU also has Dan Dierdorff, a junior college transfer from Maryland. He had impressive numbers last year.
But the Mountaineers face a strong 57 - game schedule, and plays 14 of the first 16 games on the road.