MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The West Virginia baseball team reported to the Caperton Indoor Facility on Wednesday for its final preseason practice. It was an appropriate setting, considering the Mountaineers haven’t practiced outdoors since October.
Friday afternoon will bring a return to outdoor baseball—with actual dirt, sun, wind and maybe even a few gnats—as West Virginia opens the season against defending College World Series participant Louisville in Charleston, S.C.
“It’s crazy—we’re going from a foot of snow on the ground to down there where its going to be 60 degrees,” said outfielder Bobby Boyd. “But I don’t think we’re that much behind the other teams. We’ve seen live pitching in the IPF and we’ve been able to replicate everything except for maybe taking routes on deep fly balls.”
“I’ve seen teams play in the College World Series that are less talented than the one we’ve got.” — West Virginia coach Randy Mazey
Boyd had WVU’s third-highest batting average (.314) and on-base percentage (.367) last season, while ranking second in steals (17-of-23). He was the most difficult regular to strike out, fanning 17 times in 236 plate appearances. The junior is one of five position starters returning for the Mountaineers, who were 33-26 last season.
Louisville went 51-14, reached the holy land of Omaha and returns enough firepower to be ranked in the four major preseason polls: No. 13 by USA Today, No. 14 by NCBWA, No. 20 by Baseball America and No. 8 by Collegiate Baseball.
“Louisville has a great team, both offensively and pitching,” said West Virginia senior first baseman Ryan McBroom, whose 12 homers and 48 RBIs were team-highs. “It’s something we’ve looked forward to all year, coming out against an opponent like them.
“It’s a big weekend for us. We lost some nonconference games last year that were pretty big for us.”
After Friday’s noon opener, WVU is scheduled to face Delaware on Saturday and tournament host The Citadel on Sunday.
“The first weekend’s not going to dictate the whole season, but it will be a pretty good barometer, I think, of where we are as a program,” said coach Randy Mazey, who took another playful jab at the Big 12 preseason poll.
“After the season we had (finishing third in 2013), they still picked us seventh in the Big 12. I think everybody in the locker room thought we were going to be picked higher than that. So I’d like to send my thanks out to everybody who voted again. I think there’s still that chip on our shoulder.”
With top starting pitchers Harrison Musgrave and John Means returning—and Air Force transfer Sean Carley eligible to bolster the rotation—Mazey suggested the roster is deeper than last season, when WVU came within two Big 12 tournament victories of reaching the NCAAs.
“I’ve seen teams play in the College World Series that are less talented than the one we’ve got.”