MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Over the last few weeks, WVU baseball manager Randy Mazey has tried several different lineup combinations in an effort to jumpstart his team’s offense.
That experimenting has led to the emergence of another talented youngster on a team that regularly features freshmen and sophomores.
Alec Burns, a redshirt sophomore from Amherst, New Hampshire, has started in each of West Virginia’s last six games and has supplied some pop at the plate. He’s batting .294 (5-17) across those six starts and has hammered three home runs, including two in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader with Oklahoma.
Burns’ recent play has impressed fellow WVU slugger Paul McIntosh, who is tied for he team lead in homers with six.
“This guy is must-see baseball,” McIntosh said. “He’s a guy who can leave the yard at any given time. He hasn’t played a lot, so it’s really impressive to see what he’s been doing at the plate.”
Burns has now appeared in 13 games this season, but prior to the TCU series, his role was minimal. He logged his first hit of the season in his fifth appearance, which was an April 25 loss to K-State. But then he started against TCU May 1 and notched his first career homer, and followed that up with a two-homer showing in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader with Oklahoma.
Mazey said he has been impressed by the infielder’s “intent” in recent starts, which is why he has stayed in the starting lineup. Burns batted sixth in the order during the tail end of the TCU series, but Mazey moved him to fifth for the series with the Sooners.
“He’s come in there and is swinging with a purpose. He’s trying to hit the ball in the river, and it’s hard to hit the ball in the river if you don’t swing hard enough to get it to the river,” Mazey said. “He just gets up there and he’s got some power, he’s got a little bit of a feel for hitting, and he’s giving us a whole different dimension there in that spot in the lineup. You’re gonna have to pitch to him a little bit, and if you make a mistake, he can put runs on the board with one swing of the bat, which is what we need right now.”
Though Burns has earned more playing time recently, three other sophomores have logged 12 or more starts this season: Matt McCormick (38), Victor Scott (35) and Dominic Ragazzo (12). Ten freshmen and sophomores have combined to start 176 games this season for WVU, accounting for just under 50 percent of the team’s total non-pitching starts.
West Virginia returns to action Tuesday against Marshall, which it defeated 9-3 back on April 14. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. at Monongalia County Ballpark.