For the last several weeks, I've been trying to figure out a way to do justice to what Coach Randy Mazey and the Mountaineers Baseball team have been doing this spring. Now the season is over and I feel like it would be a disservice for us to not at least look back on what they accomplished this season.
Coming into the 2013, there were absolutely no expectations placed on a program that was less than mediocre in a mediocre baseball league for an extended period of time. A huge jump in quality competition this season did nothing to enhance already low expectations. In fact, much as been already written about how the league coaches unanimously selected the Mountaineers to finish dead last in the Big 12. To compound the already taxing travel issues on WVU, they weren't going to play any league games in Morgantown.
The early season went about as well as most outside of the program expected, entering league play with a 7-9 record and then dropping two of three in the opening Big 12 series against Kansas State.
Then things started to come together for the Mountaineers. They went on a tear, winning 19 of their next 27 games including a sweep of then league leading Kansas, setting up a showdown with league favorites Oklahoma in Charleston.
Record crowds came out to support the Mountaineers as they took two of three from the Sooners (and probably should have won the third as well). The Mountaineers were the talk of the town and state. Losing both of the next two league series 2-1 ended talk of a possible league crown, but WVU did manage to finish the season 3rd in the Big 12 standings.
As if this weren't enough to capture the attention of Mountaineer fans who have longed for a competitive baseball program to support, what happened next won over the hearts of people across the country.
Disaster in the form of a massive tornado hit the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, OK. The Mountaineers had elected to stay out west following their season ending series in Stillwater, OK and traveled to Oklahoma City a bit early in preparation for the Big 12 Baseball Tournament. When it was clear that they were safe, Coach Mazey and the team sprang into action. See for yourself:
These acts alone made so many people so proud of what this team was despite the on-the field accomplishments. The outpouring of thankfulness from those directly affected and the OU and OSU communities was astounding. If the story ended here, it would have been a great story, but there was more to come.
Because of the storm, the Big 12 changed the tournament format to a Round Robin/Pool Play format. WVU dropped the opener to Kansas and then took care of TCU in game 2. If they could somehow beat the same Oklahoma State team they struggled against a week earlier, and if TCU could beat Kansas, WVU would be in the Big 12 finals.
The Mountaineers shot themselves in the foot early. They committed five errors, experienced a lack of discipline at the plate and found themselves staring at a 5-0 deficit entering their half of the sixth inning. A two RBI single by Ryan Tuntland, a two-run homerun by Ryan McBroom and solo homerun by Brady Wilson in succession knotted the game at 5 apiece. Several jams were escaped by both clubs in the later innings and to extra innings it went.
In the tenth, the Mountaineers led off with a single by Bobby Boyd and a sacrifice by Billy Fleming set the stage for Oklahoma native Jacob Rice. Rice singled and the throw home was unable to get Boyd in time and the Mountaineers had won.
Here is the game-winning run, courtesy of Emily DeShazer | The K-State Collegian (great photo) twitpic.com/ct8j4r— John Antonik (@JohnAntonik) May 26, 2013
WVU then had to wait for the results of the Kansas/TCU game. If TCU could beat Kansas, WVU would advance to the finals against Oklahoma. But it wasn't to be and the Mountaineers season came to a close.
It was a team that no one outside of their circle expected anything from. From capturing the attention of the state to the hearts and gratitude of the people in Oklahoma, this was a team for the ages. This was a team for everyone to be proud of, in oh, so many ways. And for the first time as long as I can remember, I can't wait for college baseball season to start again next year.