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Series Preview: Baseball looks to get on track vs. WKU

After winning just two of their first seven games, the West Virginia Mountaineers (2-5) look to get back on track this weekend when they travel to take on an unfamiliar opponent in Western Kentucky (5-4).

The Mountaineers dropped three out of four games last weekend in the Brittain Resorts Invitational, falling to VCU twice and Coastal Carolina on Sunday.

WVU pitching has surrendered at least five runs in five games, while the offense has been held under that total in four contests. Both units have the chance to turn things around this weekend, though against a team that WVU has never played before.

Western Kentucky’s hitting attack has had some similar struggles to WVU’s but hasn’t been nearly as powerful as the Mountaineers’. West Virginia ranks second in the Big 12 in home runs, Kevin Brophy’s 0.83 home runs per game is first nationally, and he’s also first in the conference with a 1.000 slugging percentage.

Meanwhile, on the hill, the Hilltoppers have surrendered nearly 30 more runs than Dave Serrano’s group.

Serrano and head coach Randy Mazey will send senior BJ Myers (0-0, 2.53 ERA), and sophomores Alek Manoah (0-2, 5.62) and Kade Strowd (0-1, 3.24) to the mound to start this weekend.

West Virginia’s coaching staff will be looking for longer outings out of their starters. Only twice this season has a WVU starting pitcher pitched at least five innings. And in every game but one the starter has surrendered multiple runs.

The Hilltoppers had won four in a row, but have dropped each of the last two contests, including Tuesday’s game against No. 7 Kentucky. WKU is 4-1 at home this season.

Jacob Rhinesmith leads the Hilltoppers in hits (10) and is tied for the team lead in runs batted in with five. Sam McElreath owns a team-best .398 batting average.

A total of five Western Kentucky pitchers have earned victories so far this season. Two of those pitchers – left-hander Ryan Thurston (1-1, 2.38) and righty Colby Taylor (1-0, 0.00) – will start games this weekend. The Hilltoppers’ Sunday starter hasn’t been determined yet.

Along with Brophy, Jimmy Galusky and Brandon White are the only three Mountaineer hitters that own an average above .300. Andrew Zitel (.294) is just under the mark.

White is getting on base over 50 percent of the time.

Junior right fielder Darius Hill will look to get going at the plate this weekend. His cold start to the season has him hitting at just a .129 clip.

The series starts Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. from Nick Denes Field. Saturday’s contest begins at 2 p.m. while first pitch on Sunday is scheduled to be thrown at 1 p.m.

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