Mountaineers chase baseball at-large bid
It’s the final series of games at WVU’s much-criticized Hawley Field.
Home for the Mountaineer baseball teams for decades, the once water-covered field with no dugouts, no bleachers of any kind and no amenities for the players, Hawley Field will “host” its last three games this weekend when the University of Texas comes to Morgantown with what is sure to be an abundance of sarcasm and distain for the facility that will greet the burnt orange Longhorns.
It’s nothing but solid irony that it’s Texas that plays the final innings at “Legs” Hawley Field.
Texas is coached by 75-year old Augie Garrido, the winningest coach in all of college baseball — regardless of division or level.
Garrido has five national championships and is in his 46th year of college coaching. He won three titles at Cal State Fullerton and two at Texas where he has been since 1997. The sometimes caustic and undiplomatic mentor doesn’t have to apologize to anybody for he now has 1,906 wins — more than any coach to ever direct a college team.
Texas has the best of facilities. It has the full compliment of 11.67 baseball scholarships, a stadium that many professional minor league franchises would lust after and so much oil money coming from boosters that probing for national championships in all sports is the accepted way of life.
After two close-to-awful seasons by Garrido’s standards in 2012 and 2013, the Longhorns are now 32-13 but only 10-8 in the Big 12 standings.
Garrido has pitching. Maybe the best staff of starters in all of the nation. But the Longhorns sometimes struggle to score runs.
They have lost their last two conference games and have played 31 times at home in Austin.
West Virginia and its coach Randy Mazey are no strangers to hunting for runs when facing strike-throwing pitchers.
But just recently the Mountaineers have managed to win six straight games, joining once again the long line of teams chasing the often elusive at-large bids to the national tournament that leads to the College World Series.
After seeing four games lost to the awful weather earlier this “spring”, the Mountaineers have used those six consecutive wins to move their overall record to 24-16 and Big 12 record to 7-7.
Mazey has the often reliable Harrison Musgrave, a left-hander with coveted control, as his most accomplished starter. Musgrave won’t approach last year’s 9-1 record but is 4-3 with a 1.95 earned run average. The opposition is batting only .196 against him.
Sean Carley has made nine starts and has achieved a 5-1 record and a 2.69 earned run average. John Means has also made nine starts, and has a 5-1 record and a 2.10 ERA. Ross Vance, a left-hander, recently joined Mazey’s starting rotation, and he’s moved his record to 3-0 and his earned runs average to 2.57. Corey Walter has four saves and the Mountaineers have a 3.38 team earned run average.
When West Virginia does do enough on offense it’s usually because veterans Bobby Boyd (.379), Ryan McBoom (.348 and seven home runs), Billy Fleming (.346) and Jacob Rice (.299) have made contributions. Both Michael Constantino and Taylor Munden are batting at least .280.
The Mountainers have a .290 team batting average.
Being only eight games over .500 means the Mountaineers have virtually no room for error or post-game remarks that resemble “we played pretty well, but . . . “
After the three game set against Texas, there is a non-conference game in Princeton against Virginia Tech, three conference games at Kansas, a May 13 date at Maryland and a regular-season closing, three-game series of conference games at Texas Tech.
Once decrepit Hawley Field is now only partially decrepit.
At any rate, it is hosting its final series.
The new, amenities-laced baseball facility is being constructed near I-79. And even Texas won’t be able to scoff at anything other than the weather when it visits again.
West Virginia will likely have to scratch for runs this weekend against the brilliance of the Longhorn starting pitchers. Augie Garrido will chase another win that would move him closer to 2,000.
But the Mountaineers are still in a realistic search for enough wins that could carry them into the Big 12 tournament with the prospect of an at-large bid to the national tournament’s Regional games as the carrot at the end of the stick.