Hosting: WVU home to NCAA baseball Regional
SHEPHERDSTOWN — The bunting will be hanging from conspicuous areas all around Monongalia County Ballpark this weekend.
West Virginia University will be hosting a four-team NCAA Regional tournament for the first time ever.
With the No.15 overall seed, the Mountaineers could claim one of the 16 Regionals as their own, bringing three other teams to Morgantown for a tournament that sends the winner to one of the eight Super Regionals that then spawn the eight teams that reach the College World Series in Omaha.
West Virginia comes in with a 37-20 record and just finished second in the Big 12 Conference tournament.
Fordham, the champion from the Atlantic 10 tournament, is West Virginia’s first round opponent tonight at 8 p.m. The Rams from The Bronx, New York rely heavily on their pitching and a jack rabbit offense that has to steal bases and do some fancy things on the base paths to score runs. Fordham hit only 25 home runs in its 60 games and had a 38-22 record. But the team stole 177 bases in 225 steal attempts.
In going 4-0 in the Atlantic 10 tournament, the Rams defeated Richmond 7-6 in 10 innings, edged Virginia Commonwealth 2-1, tripped Dayton 4-2 and beat Dayton again, 4-3 in 12 innings.
The only team on Fordham’s schedule to reach the NCAA tournament is Texas A&M, an Aggies team that went 3-0 versus the Rams to open the 2019 season for both teams.
Fordham’s team batting average was .253 and it usually needed sharp pitching performances from the likes of Anthony DiMaglio (6-3 record), John Stankiewicz (8-3 record) and Kyle Martin (10 saves) to win close games. Only Jake MacKenzie (.313) and Jake Baker (.305) hit over .300 for the pitcher-reliant Rams.
No. 2 seed Duke (Atlantic Coast Conference) and No. 3 seed Texas A&M (SEC) are the other two teams in Morgantown.
Duke had a 31-25 record but featured an RPI and decent showing against the nation’s top 50 teams to receive an at-large bid to this tournament.
Texas A&M was 37-21-1 and is one of 10 teams from the Southeastern Conference in this event’s 64 team field.
Duke and Texas A&M will play at 4 p.m. this afternoon in the tournament’s first game.
Will WVU coach Randy Mazey do the same as he did in the Big 12 Conference tournament when started left-handed pitcher Nick Snyder against Kansas in his opening game? Mazey saved Alek Manoah (9-3, 1.85 ERA) for Texas Tech in WVU’s second game in the Big 12 tournament.
The Mountaineers beat Kansas, 12-8, in their first tournament outing and then Manoah blanked the Red Raiders for eight innings in WVU’s 5-0 win in the second game.
Should the weather cooperate in Almost Heaven fashion, the overflow crowd in the 3,500 seat stadium for tonight’s Fordham game will be craning their necks from grassy knolls, in the aisles and nearly anywhere a glimpse of the historic game can be had.
West Virginia has never won any NCAA Regional and has never seen firsthand any Super Regional or Omaha-based College World Series.
Duke and Texas A&M have enjoyed stellar seasons when they both have won their way to the College World Series.
WVU’s season has been blessed by the runs-saving, sometimes games-saving defense of center fielder Brandon White. White, Tyler Doanes, Darius Hill, Paul McIntosh and Ivan Gonzalez at the top of Mazey’s batting order have carried the offense all season long.
Freshmen pitchers Ryan Bergert and Zach Ottinger combined to shut out Texas Tech in a crucial Big 12 tournament game. Both would be needed again if the Mountaineers move to a third or fourth tournament game this weekend.
This game has generated excitement almost the same as a Pitt football game at Puskar Stadium would or a Kansas basketball game at the Coliseum might.
West Virginia’s the home team. And the home team’s fan base can make visiting teams uneasy and uncomfortable in previously unseen surroundings. And then Manoah and Snyder can further bring uneasiness to any college team’s batting order.