WVU pitcher Musgrave a big shot in Big 12

| Saturday, May 4, 2013, 9:58 p.m.

When he returned from Tommy John surgery, West Virginia sophomore Harrison Musgrave faced more than the uncertainty of recovering from a major injury. He also needed to impress his new coach.

Musgrave lost 10 pounds and cleaned up his mechanics. The turnaround resulted in one of the best individual starts in school history.

Musgrave is 7-1 with a 2.38 ERA this season. He's 4-0 in the Big 12 Conference (1.23 ERA in league play) and had complete-game shutouts in back-to-back starts before giving up two runs in seven innings Friday against Oklahoma. This ended a string of 27 13 consecutive scoreless innings for Musgrave.

Musgrave already been named Big 12 pitcher of the week three times —including the last two weeks in a row.

“Coming off Tommy John surgery, I'm surprised at what I've done so far,” Musgrave said.

“He's been unbelievable,” first-year WVU coach Randy Mazey said.

It was Mazey who challenged Musgrave following fall practice to get in better condition. Musgrave also needed to find ways to relieve stress on his arm after sitting out a year because of surgery.

“The coaches have been really positive and energetic,” Musgrave said. “I love what they're doing. The whole team has bought in.''

No one more than Musgrave, who suffered tendon damage to his left elbow against Seton Hall during his freshman season in 2011.

Musgrave had started impressively with four wins, including a complete-game shutout against Georgetown.

Feeling a twinge in his elbow following a pitch, Musgrave attempted another throw that met with disastrous results.

“I heard a pop and pain went down my arm,” he said.

Spending a year away from baseball didn't discourage Musgrave, but it did help him realize he needed to regain his competitive edge.

Receiving the message from Mazey, a successful associate head coach at TCU before taking over in Morgantown, motivated Musgrave to become a complete pitcher.

Once the weight came off, Musgrave's makeover included a new throwing motion.

“I had to find ways to take stress off my arm,” said Musgrave, a three-time all-state performer at Bridgeport (W.Va.) High. “I realize I had to be doing something wrong to hurt myself, so I use my lower half more than I did before, to keep my arm from being sore.”

Musgrave's first big test this year was at Big 12 powerhouse Texas on April 19. Musgrave beat the Longhorns, 1-0, striking out nine and allowing six hits with two walks.

“It was my biggest game on the biggest stage,” said Musgrave.

The Mountaineers won two of three against Texas. Entering the season, WVU was picked to finish last in the Big 12 in a vote of league coaches. The Mountaineers are fourth in league play.

“You try to tell them no one particular game's bigger than another, but you come in this place with the storied tradition and shut this team out, it's really special,” Mazey said.

Musgrave's complete-game shutout against Texas had a carryover effect against Kansas last weekend. Once again, Musgrave started the opening game of the series. Once again, Musgrave delivered.

Musgrave wasn't as dominant in WVU's identical 1-0 victory over Kansas, recording five strikeouts. However, his command of the game and control of his pitches was impeccable.

He allowed only four hits with one walk and retired Kansas in order in the first, second, fourth, fifth, sixth and ninth innings.

“Coming into the Big 12, it took people a while to realize we weren't going to be pushovers,” Musgrave said. “It's a team game, but I've been able to pitch well, and we've played well as a team. We've just got to keep doing what we've been doing.”

John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jharris@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JHarris_Trib.

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