Mountaineer bats catch fire before hosting No. 10 Texas The Gold and Blue Nation Podcast

West Virginia’s bats were on fire in Kansas this weekend, smashing 10 homers as the Mountaineers won its third Big 12 series of the season over the Jayhawks. Next week, though, they have a big test when they welcome the biggest bats in the league to the Mon’ in the struggling — but still formidable — Texas Longhorns. Will West Virginia take the ‘Horns down, just like they’ve done throughout their time in the Big 12? Ryan Decker and Sam Coniglio take you through WVU’s exciting three-game series against KU, then look ahead to what is sure to be a fireworks display at a packed house in Morgantown to start May.  Subscribe on your preferred podcast platform to have future episodes delivered to you. Gold and Blue Nation is the local leader for Mountaineer sports news, producing comprehensive coverage on TV and online. Download the free Gold and Blue Nation app via your preferred app store so you’re never more than a touch away from our WVU sports reporting, highlights and archived shows.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Ace Alek Manoah is one of two former West Virginia University baseball players currently in Major League Baseball.

However, nine other former Mountaineers are also continuing a professional baseball career this spring in various regions of the country, and at various levels of Minor League Baseball.

These former Mountaineers, all of whom were coached by Randy Mazey, range from Single-A to Triple-A.

Here is where you can find these WVU alums this spring.

Chad Donato – RHP – Houston Astros organization

The 2016 MLB Draft selection got his first taste of what it’s like to be in the big leagues this spring when he pitched for the Astros in spring training.

Donato appeared in one preseason game, throwing three innings and striking out two hitters. Unfortunately, he also allowed two earned runs on four hits.

The former Mountaineer, now pitching in his second season at the Triple-A level, is off to a good start this season.

Through four appearances on the mound, including two starts, the former 11th-round pick owns a 2-1 record with a 3.63 earned run average. So far, he has tossed 17.1 innings, struck out 13, and is holding opposing hitters to a .177 batting average.

He is also the only former Mountaineer currently playing at the Triple-A level.

Pitching for the Sugar Land Space Cowboys, Donato won’t be performing anywhere close to Morgantown this season, as he and his club play in Texas and neighboring states.

Over the course of his MiLB career, Donato is 23-20 with a 3.68 ERA and has racked up a total of 339 strikeouts.

Michael Grove – RHP – Los Angeles Dodgers organization

The Wheeling, West Virginia native continues to display impressive stuff in the minor leagues.

Grove, who received a spring training invite in 2021 and even got the attention of Jomboy that spring, started the 2022 season with one MLB spring training appearance.

He struck out two, including one of the Padres top prospects.

Grove is currently performing in Double-A with the Tulsa Drillers.

The former second-round pick has appeared on the mound three times this year, and has struck out 13 would-be hitters in just 8.2 innings. His WHIP is an impressive 0.81.

Grove is coming off of a six-strikeout performance on April 26, which was a good sign after he left his previous start due to injury precautions.

The right-hander is now the No. 23 prospect in the Dodger farm system, according to MLB.com.

Darius Hill – OF – Chicago Cubs organization

Former WVU right fielder Darius Hill also received a spring training invitation, and he performed well in front of the big league brass.

Hill appeared in eight spring training games and stepped to the plate a total of 12 times. In nine official at-bats, Hill recorded four hits, scored three runs, walked three times, and also delivered a game-sealing RBI triple for the Cubs.

The former 2019 20th-round selection, who was named the Cubs’ minor leaguer of the month last June, is off to a solid start of this season in Double-A.

Through 79 at-bats, Hill is hitting for a .329 average, with a .361 on-base percentage, and an .829 OPS. The outfielder leads his team in hits (26), doubles (8), runs (14), and also has the fewest strikeouts among qualified hitters on the Tennessee Smokies’ roster.

In fact, Hill ranks in the top 5 in all of the Southern League in hits, doubles, and fewest strikeouts heading into the month of May.

Playing in the Southern League, Hill will face off against this next WVU alum throughout the season.

Paul McIntosh – C – Miami Marlins organization

An undrafted free agent, Paul McIntosh is working his way up the Miami Marlins farm system.

Last year, McIntosh played in rookie ball and Single-A. But he began this season in Double-A.

The 24-year-old catcher is also off to a good start to the year.

Through 57 at-bats with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, the former Mountaineer backstop is hitting for a .316 batting average, with two home runs, nine runs driven in, and five stolen bases. He also commands an impressive .979 OPS.

McIntosh has been impressive early on with the Blue Wahoos, and was recently one of the top players in all of the Marlins farm system in one advanced analytic.

Braden Zarbnisky – RHP – Philadelphia Phillies organization

The former WVU Swiss Army Knife made one brief appearance with the Phillies in spring training. It lasted just one out, but he did not allow any batter to reach base.

Zarbnisky has since made six trips to the mound with Philadelphia’s Double-A affiliate, the Reading Fightin Phils.

In those six appearances, the right-hander is 1-0 with a 0.93 ERA. Over 9.2 innings pitched, Zarb has allowed just four hits, surrendered just one run, and has struck out five against three walks.

Opposing hitters are batting .118 against him, and he holds an impressive 0.72 WHIP.

Zarbnisky made it as high as the Triple-A level in 2021.

Kade Strowd – RHP – Baltimore Orioles organization

Another former Mountaineer hurler playing on the east coast, Kade Strowd remains with the Aberdeen IronBirds.

Strowd, a 2019 MLB Draft pick by the Baltimore Orioles, is in his second season with Aberdeen at the High-A level.

So far this year, Strowd has made four relief appearances. The righty currently is 1-1 with a 0.00 ERA, though he has allowed two unearned runs this season.

A former 12th-round selection, Strowd has made 38 appearances at the Minor League level, including one appearance against the West Virginia Black Bears in the final active season of the New York Penn League.

Ryan Bergert – RHP – San Diego Padres organization

One of two WVU pitchers selected by the Padres in the 2021 MLB Draft, Bergert has been promoted from the rookie league to the High-A level by San Diego.

Bergert appeared in seven games on the mound last year after being drafted, and was 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA.

The right-hander made four starts in the month of April but was handed a pair of losses.

So far this spring, Bergert is 0-2 with a 2.93 earned run average. He’s pitched 15.1 innings, and has surrendered five runs on nine hits. Three of those hits have left the yard.

The good news is that Bergert has shown good command, as he has a 23 to 4 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Opposing hitters are hitting just .167 against him.

Jackson Wolf – LHP – San Diego Padres organization

Bergert isn’t the only former Mountaineer playing for Fort Wayne.

His West Virginia teammate, and 2021 fourth-round draft pick, Jackson Wolf is keeping him company with the TinCaps.

Wolf, who pitched in both rookie ball and Single-A in 2021, has had an up and down start to his season with Fort Wayne.

The former ace of Randy Mazey’s pitching staff has made four appearances, which include three starts. Two of those appearances have been scoreless, including five innings of two-hit, shutout baseball on April 28.

However, Wolf allowed at least two runs in his other two outings, including being roughed up for five runs in his start on April 23.

In total, Wolf is 1-1 with a 4.40 ERA this spring.

Ivan Gonzalez – C – Chicago White Sox organization

Gonzalez was an eighth-round selection by the White Sox in 2019.

The catcher has risen as high as Single-A, but did lose an entire season of minor league baseball in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Gonzalez has gotten off to a decent start to this season with the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers.

Through nine games played, Gonzalez is hitting for a .250 average with two home runs and four runs batted in. He has also scored seven runs, and has an OPS of .800.