Was WVU’s early success a mirage? | News, Sports, Jobs
MORGANTOWN — Do you remember the day you learned there was no Santa Claus? there was no Easter Bunny; that the tooth fairy was your mother or your father.
If you’re a West Virginia athlete, it seems like this day comes around one way or another every year.
It doesn’t matter what sport – football, basketball, baseball.
No matter how good a year, no matter what kind of season, there’s always Pitt or Notre Dame or Cal waiting at the end. Ask Pat White, Major Harris or Jerry West.
Now you can also ask Randy Mazey.
His Mountaineers have lacked miracles in a season that went from dream to nightmare in a Texas minute as the baseball team he leads, the one that seemed certain to be the lone Big 12 regular-season champion, the one that was already selling tickets to an NCAA region that they were going to organize, that thought they would make at least one deep run in the Big 12 baseball championship, turned out to be just another sports team that couldn’t get through the last step.
The week started off with so much hope and so much hype, with JJ Wetherholt being named Big 12 Player of the Year, Mazey being named conference manager of the year and sprinkling their stars on All-Conference teams.
And then they had to play games. They were swept by Texas and had to settle for part of what was the first three-way tie for the regular season championship in league history.
Asked what happened last week after he was “sort of on a roll going down to Austin,” Mazey answered honestly.
“Cuteness is an understatement,” Mazey began, referencing the hot streak they were going through. I think you had us number 6 in the nation at one point and then you saw us play and it didn’t work out very well.
They went from No. 6 to No. 21 in the national rankings, fell to the No. 3 seed in the tournament, then received a humble piece of pie on what was supposed to be their best year ever because he was two and through in the conference tournament.
“We didn’t look like a Top 10 team in the country (in Austin),” Mazey said. “We had to come here and play well. Before last weekend, we hadn’t lost three games in a row this year or last year.
It took all the way back to 2021 to find the Mountaineers suffering a five-and-six game losing streak, with their current streak now standing at five games.
“We’ve been really, really good for a really long time and if you know anything about college baseball, you know how hard it is to do. But it happens.
They lost the opener, 6-2, to Texas Tech on Wednesday in a game they showed very little interest in, and then on Thursday it was Oklahoma State, the No. 2 seed, surviving a an intriguing afternoon of baseball that had all the trappings an elimination game is supposed to have.
Good throwing, good defense, some officiating controversies, a moment of hot words between WVU opponents Tim Tucker and Oklahoma State’s Watts Brown, and a bad jump that could have thrown things into West Virginia’s hands .
But as always seems to happen, it ended in the tying run at third base, the header at second and another runner on first base with two out, with the Cowboys coming off a 3-2 lead in the end. from eighth on Shortstop Ric Riggio’s single right.
One more hit, any type of hit, and WVU would have probably won the game. They would have even taken another bad shot like the double Caleb McNeeley got in the middle of that ninth inning threat, the ball going over the shoulder of the Cowboys third baseman.
Surely an entire state of 1.8 million people took this as an omen from the baseball gods that things were changing for West Virginia, that maybe this was the time they would actually win a game that they had to win.
Add that bit of luck to JJ Wetherholt’s return as college baseball’s leading hitter with a single, double, walk and two hits to bring his average for the year to .449 and you know everyone’s “from Weirton to Welch, Martinsburg to Matewan and every point in between,” this incredible season can continue.
But, instead, it would turn out to be just another not-so-instant replay that would leave the Mountaineers faithful wondering when and how they’d get the monkey off their backs.
There’s more to come, of course. There’s the NCAA Tournament, which will no doubt bring one of the Big 12’s three co-champions to his field, although when someone tried to get Mazey to say he was sure they would go after Wednesday’s first loss, he declined the invitation.
“I feel like we can’t assume we’re in the NCAA Tournament,” he said then. “I thought last year (a year they were 33-22) when I sat here… and it didn’t happen.”
But after today’s game, Mazey told his team he believed they would be in the NCAA.
“This is the first time in our post-game huddle that I’ve stood there to tell my team that we’re going to practice next week. If they don’t leave the Big 12 champions in the playoffs , you’ll probably have to talk to me through a glass partition,” Mazey said.
“It would be blasphemous not to put the Big 12 champions in the playoffs, so I’m really confident we’ll be playing next week.”
Well, they’ve now got 39 wins and that conference championship, so expect to hear their name called out on Monday’s draft show, and let’s hope maybe the events of the past week have put a pretty big blunder under their saddle to drive them crazy and ready to finally have a decisive tournament.
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