WVU baseball coming off Mazey’s best season in Morgantown
In Morgantown, there is a lively step and the emerging smiles are because West Virginia’s baseball team closed the 2016 season by reaching the Big 12 tournament’s championship game. And that Mountaineer team was completing a season that showed them with a 36-22 record — the most wins the school had managed since 2009.
This will be Coach Randy Mazey’s fifth season. His overall record was 124-101 entering last weekend’s season-opening, three-game series against the Charlotte 49ers in Charlotte.
Now playing in a comfortable ball park that resembles many of the stylish fields that the best teams in the country possess, the Mountaineers have only the weather to hamper their recruiting efforts.
And then even the usually stinging late winter/springs seen in Morgantown haven’t kept a roster with 14 players from the state of Texas from occupying important spots.
In reaching the conference tournament championship game last spring, West Virginia progressed farther than Texas Christian, Baylor, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma — all highly ranked rivals.
Mazey returns most of his every-day players.
Darius Hill hit .342 a year ago and drove in 40 runs. Jackson Cramer finished with a .300 batting average and sophomore shortstop Jimmy Galusky (Preston High School) had a .282 average in his first college season.
Kyle Davis had 10 home runs and batted .280 and Kyle Gray hit .270. Two more regulars from the 2016 team are Cole Austin (a .221 batting average) and Braden Zarbnisky (a .265 hitter).
B.J. Myers is the Mountaineer with the most starting pitching experience. Myers went 5-3 last season and had a 4.05 earned run average.
When the Mountaineers opened against Charlotte they dropped the season opener, 6-3, and then the next day had nine players see their first-ever playing time for West Virginia. The 49ers drilled WVU, 13-2, in the season’s second game.
Austin was 3-for-4 in the first-game loss and Zarbnisky was 2-for-3. Myers was the starting pitcher, going 6.1 innings. In the second-game loss Hill was 2-for-4 and sophomore Michael Grove lasted four innings on the mound, yielding four runs on six hits.
This weekend, the Mountaineers go south again — this time to Myrtle Beach to play single games on four straight days. The opposition is George Mason, defending national champion Coastal Carolina, Ball State and Coastal Carolina again.
In the Big 12, Texas Christian was the No.-1 ranked team in the nation beginning the season. Texas Tech and Oklahoma State joined the Horned Frogs at the 2016 College World Series in Omaha.
West Virginia has non-conference games at home against Pittsburgh, Penn State, Marshall and Virginia Tech.
Playing at a ball park with an all-weather surface, in-ground dugouts and chairback seating is light years removed from the first Hawley Field and even the refurbished Hawley Field that had seats for only 1,500.
West Virginia believes it deserved an at-large bid to the 64-team NCAA Tournament last year. The bid didn’t come.
Winning more than 36 games this season would give Mazey and company more fodder to send to the tournament selection committee.
There is a pliable blend of veteran, every-day players and first-year competition. Now if enough starting pitching can be found, the Mountaineer aspirations and NCAA reality just might meet in the postseason.