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WVU to face hurdles before ever reaching the College World Series

By Staff | Jun 28, 2019

The 2019 Mountaineer roster had only three in-state players, including catcher Chase Illig, who was injured most of the season. Courtesy photo

SHEPHERDSTOWN — The much-publicized College World Series just ended. There were eight teams in Omaha and all but Michigan were from warm weather outposts or the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Do the teams from the Sun Belt, California or Arizona have a built-in advantage over schools from the North, upper Midwest or plains states?

What would West Virginia University’s upwardly mobile program have to do to ever reach the College World Series?

In the 2019 Series were Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Arkansas and Auburn from the Southeastern Conference. That was half the field. The Atlantic Coast Conference had Louisville and Florida State. Texas Tech represented the Big 12 where West Virginia is a member. And then there was Michigan, the lone school from a cold weather state.

Michigan had a roster with 13 players that are not from Michigan and an additional six from Wisconsin. The University of Wisconsin does not sponsor baseball, so any athlete wanting to play Division I baseball from the Badger State must go out of state to play. That’s 19 players that did not play their high school baseball in Michigan.

The teams from warm weather climates usually can recruit well enough in their own state and don’t need a roster filled with out-of-state players.

West Virginia University is at a disadvantage compared with the southern schools because of the state’s small population, fewer high schools or junior colleges and raw weather in January, February, March and some of April.

Where does WVU get its players?

Mostly, from out-of-state. The 2019 Mountaineer roster had only three players from in-state high schools or residences. Chase Illig was catcher, who was injured most of the season. Beau Lowery was a freshman pitcher who prepped at Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania but lives in Martinsburg and Madison Jeffrey was a little-used pitcher.

West Virginia’s entire starting lineup and top four starting pitchers came from out-of-state programs. All of them had to be asked to come to a cold weather climate and had to be successfully recruited against other Division I schools in those athlete’s home states.

The Mountaineers had five players from Texas and five more from Florida.

Will there ever be enough quality baseball players from the state of West Virginia to help the Mountaineers accomplish what Vanderbilt, LSU, Clemson, Mississippi State and the other dozens of warm weather schools are able to do?

It’s not likely. To keep moving in the right direction, the Mountaineers will likely need to keep bringing in players from anywhere they can find them . . . and then recruit them.

Recruiting in the state of Texas is a Herculean task. Quality Division I teams there include Texas Tech, Baylor, Texas A&M, TCU, Rice, Houston, Dallas Baptist, Texas and Houston Baptist.

West Virginia’s few advantages are: the baseball facility is very nice and has indoor space to practice in the routinely found inclement weather; the team was invited to the 2019 NCAA Tournament and even hosted a well-attended Regional tournament; and the state’s fandom will hitch their rooting interest to any Mountaineer team they can find.

The inherent disadvantages make climbing the slippery wall to heights already attained by so many warm weather schools a most difficult task.

But not impossible.