It has been a really tough year for fans. Last year, after football went 6-4 and won a bowl game against Army, basketball followed up by making the NCAA tournament, but baseball following hosting their first regional since 1955, struggled after losing Alek Manoah, who was selected in the first round of the MLB Draft. Randy Mazey’s son was seriously injured in an accident where he was hit by a baseball and Mazey spent over half the season away from the team.
The team struggled to a 25-27 record, Mazey’s first losing season at West Virginia and his first since 1995. That losing season seems to have kicked off a year of bad karma. Football followed baseball and went 6-6 but then lost in a horrific fashion in their bowl game where they were manhandled at the line of scrimmage. Basketball is finishing up its regular season and after starting 13-2 has gone 1-13 in their last 14 games and now sits 1 game under .500 with two games left and the Big 12 Tournament.
But now baseball has had a full spring training and has gotten itself back on track taking 5 of their first 7 games and injecting the F word back into West Virginia sports. FUN.
In the first series of the weekend, the team traveled to South Carolina to play in the Myrtle Beach Classic, playing Central Michigan, Kent State and Coastal Carolina over a 4-day weekend. On the first game of the season, against a ranked Central Michigan team, the Mountaineers won 13-8 and it was not as close as it may seem. Freshman JJ Wetherholt homered on his first collegiate at-bat of the season. Freshman Grant Hussey homered in his second collegiate at bat. Two players both had their first hit of their careers be homeruns.
More so, 13 players got an at-bat in the first game of the season and 10 pitchers saw action in the game. Mazey has committed, moreso than Bob Huggins or Neal Brown, to playing young players early.
These days, if you don’t play those young and talented freshmen enough, they just jump right into the portal. It is going to be a trick. I would say eighty percent of the games we play this year, we are going to throw five pitchers or more in each game. It is going to be one of those deals for that reason and the fact that they are all pretty talented. We still don’t have any idea who is going to start on Sunday for us on the opening weekend. There’s about four or five candidates as we go into this weekend’s intrasquads.
“You are no longer building a program. You just have to build a team one year at a time. The status of this thing year-to-year now is, probably half of your team every single season is going to be kids that are in your program for the first time. Developing a freshman into a senior now is harder than it used to be. Part of development is learning how to sit on the bench, learning how to fail and learning how to do all that. Kids just don’t want to do near as much of that nowadays as they have in the past.”
Mazey even commented on the reason for that, noting that baseball programs have dealt with player attrition much longer than football or baseball ever has.
“My take is that for Neal [Brown], and [Bob Huggins], and [Mike] Carey, welcome to my world,” he said. “Baseball coaches, we’ve been managing rosters for 50 years with the draft and losing high school kids to the draft and losing juniors in your program. Now, they’re dealing with what we’ve dealt with for a long time.”
After beating Central Michigan, the Mountaineers found success against Kent State and then turned around and proved Friday’s win wasn’t a fluke by beating Central Michigan again. Three days, three wins. Monday, the Mountaineers knocked on the door of a 4-0 weekend, tying the game at 7 in the 7th before losing in the eighth and ninth. Still, the Mountaineers weren’t run over and they continued to manufacture runs and steal bases. These Mountaineers aren’t dependent on the long-ball, they will steal home if it comes down to it.
This past weekend, the Mountaineers traveled to Charlotte and on Friday gave fans a full display of the fun they plan to play with. The most exciting play in baseball is a walk-off and the Mountaineers, being the away team, couldn’t walk off the game but got the next best thing. Austin Davis singled. Then he stole second. JJ Wetherholt walked and Davis stole third. Victor Scott pulled off an amazing suicide squeeze and Davis scored the winning run. The Mountaineers did that with a single, two stolen bases and a bunt. In that game the Mountaineers stole 9 games and forced Charlotte to play a different catcher.
The team split a Saturday double-header but in their loss, they put the tying runs on base and threatened to take the lead. This team isn’t an easy out and is willing to make you earn all 27 outs.
That is exactly how the Mountaineers are affecting other teams. They are going to tell you they plan to steal the base. Then they are going to steal the base. And if you let the fast guys get on base, they can put themselves in scoring position without a hit. Teams must choose between offense and defense at catcher. Imagine being able to take the bat out of a players hands because you have speed. FUN.
After a tough year of football when we’ve all been at each other’s throats and basketball followed and the apathy is now turned to resignation and acceptance, the baseball team is threatening you with a good time. We said Make West Virginia Fun Again and Randy Mazey took the challenge head on. The team is ranked. They do exciting things. They play young guys. F-U-N!