Means Finds Ways To Shut Down North Carolina

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—West Virginia played a Thursday-Saturday series at Cal State Northridge last week, and it chose to keep its weekend starters on their usual days—which meant its usual Sunday starter, junior lefthander John Means, did not pitch. The Mountaineers had their Tuesday game against Marshall postponed, while North Carolina’s Tuesday game against Princeton was rained out, so the Tar Heels added a Wednesday game against WVU on short notice. Means might have made them regret it.

John Means

John Means shut down the Heels on Wednesday.

Means was dominant Wednesday, allowing just three hits and no walks while striking out five in a complete-game victory, as the Mountaineers won 5-1. Means faced the minimum through five no-hit innings and finished with just 102 pitches.

“He was on all night long, and he had all three pitches going,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “We gave him this game on short notice, and when you do that to a pitcher, you don’t know what you’re going to get because they have routines between starts. We threw him into the fire here, and he responded unbelievably. That was one of the best pitched games we’ve had all year.”

Mazey said Means has flashed some 93 mph heat at times this year, but he worked comfortably at 89-91 Wednesday, spotting his fastball effectively to both sides of the plate. His 74-76 curveball and 77-78 changeup both seemed to get better as the game went on, giving him three legitimate weapons, but his fastball was his bread and butter.

“My fastball command saved me a lot today,” Means said. “I tried to spot up with that the entire game, and they’re a fastball hitting team, so I tried to get them to roll over and get themselves out most of the time.”

The Mountaineers (11-6) don’t have a ton of pitching depth, but they have three legitimate weekend horses in veterans Harrison Musgrave, Sean Carley and Means. They have some promising options in the bullpen, led by a pair of senior righties (Pascal Paul and Corey Walter) plus junior-college transfer Trevor Simms. Walter and Simms have power arms; Mazey said Simms has run his fastball up to 95.

The Mountaineers also have a veteran lineup with some athleticism and speed (led by center fielder Bobby Boyd, who can fly), and a bona fide slugger in senior first baseman Ryan McBroom. It isn’t easy to find true home run threats in college baseball these days, but the 6-foot-3, 220-pound McBroom fits the bill. He went 3-for-4 Wednesday, driving a double to deep center field and singling to left field and to right. His approach has matured during the course of his college career, making him a very dangerous, complete hitter. He leads the team in most offensive categories, hitting .388/.449/.672 with five homers, four doubles and 23 RBIs, and more walks (nine) than strikeouts (six).

West Virginia has had potent offenses before, and it looks like it will have one again this year. They played with abundant energy Wednesday, which is typical of a Mazey-coached team. But the Mountaineers have seldom had a weekend rotation like this one, which gives them a real chance to make a regional this year for the first time since 1996.

“We’re pretty good,” Mazey said. “We’ve got some older kids that have been around the block a while. We’ve got three starting pitchers that are pretty good. Those three guys are going to have to carry us throughout.”

Means certainly did his part Wednesday, helping West Virginia record its first win of the year against a ranked team.