It’s been over 20 years since WVU reached an NCAA postseason event
A shoestring budget. A home field without dugouts and quaint accommodations for spectators. A schedule of Division II and Southern Conference teams for the most part.
And yet West Virginia was an annual recipient of bids to the NCAA baseball tournament.
First of all, the Mountaineers went to the District III Regionals in Gastonia, North Carolina . . . seeing the likes of Wake Forest, Florida, Duke and Florida State.
Later came NCAA bids when the Mountaineers had moved to the Eastern Eight and Big East.
But the last time West Virginia saw any NCAA postseason life was back in 1996.
And there has never been a visit to the College World Series in Omaha.
Wholesale changes have recently come to WVU baseball.
There is a comfortable minor league stadium that reeks with player-friendly features both on the field and off. The attendance has danced higher and higher for several consecutive years. In the last few weeks, over 3,000 people came to see the Mountaineers play Texas Christian U., which was ranked No. 3 in the nation at the time.
On April 18, West Virginia was ranked No. 25 in that week’s USATODAY poll.
When the Big 12 schedule got underway, WVU won 2-of-3 against Oklahoma State, 2-of-3 against Baylor, 2-of-3 against Kansas and 2-of-3 against Texas Christian. The Big 12 standings found the Mountaineers at 8-4 and in sole possession of second place behind only TCU.
Last weekend in Manhattan, Kansas, WVU dropped two of three games to Kansas State and is currently 9-6 in league play. That’s still good enough to share second place with Texas Tech, also 9-6 . . . but 33-10 overall and nationally ranked.
The rest of the conference standings show Kansas at 8-7, Oklahoma at 6-6, Texas at 7-8, Baylor at 6-9, Oklahoma State at 6-9 and Kansas State at 4-11.
Only three series remain in the Big 12’s regular season schedule.
West Virginia will host Oklahoma this weekend for three games and then host Texas Tech for three games on May 5 through May 7. The final series of the season will take place on May 19 through May 21 at Texas.
Currently holding a 23-15 overall record on April 25, the Mountaineers are in Coach Randy Masey’s fifth season.
A late-season splurge of wins, including three in the Big 12 tournament, had WVU near an NCAA bid in 2016. But a loss to Texas Tech in the conference tournament championship game meant there would be no bid for the 20th straight season.
This year’s statistical leaders include Brandon White with a .360 batting average, Austin Cole at .312, Jackson Cramer at .308, Kyle Davis at .299 and Ivan Gonzalez at .291.
The pitching leaders are weekend starters Michael Grove (from Wheeling Park High) with a 3-1 record and 2.87 ERA and BJ Myers with a 3-2 record and 3.66 ERA. Braden Zarbnisky has appeared in 14 games and has no starts. His record is 5-0 with a 2.49 ERA.
There will be 64 teams chosen to enter the NCAA tournament at the Regional level. There are 16 Regionals in all.
It’s been 1996 since a West Virginia team has been back to the NCAA tournament.
This team has a chance to get out of the desert and get back to some NCAA oasis again.