MORGANTOWN, W.Va. —With four Big 12 series remaining, West Virginia sits seventh in the conference standings but on the good side of the NCAA bubble, according to Baseball America writer Aaron Fitt.
He currently projects the Mountaineers as an at-large team, albeit one of the last ones in the field of 64.
“They’re still one of those teams that’s right on the edge,” Fitt told MetroNews “Statewide Sportsline” as West Virginia (21-16, 4-7) welcomes Kansas State (23-19, 4-8) for a weekend set.
As of Thursday night, Randy Mazey’s squad ranked 29th in the RPI, fourth-best in the Big 12. Though Fitt considers the RPI a “flawed metric,” the formula influences selection committee members and puts West Virginia in contention for its NCAA bid since 1996.
“The thing that’s really going for them is the RPI—they’re in pretty good shape there,” Fitt said. “But they’re still only 4-7 in the league. They do have some work to do. They have to finish strong, and there are no gimmies in this league.”
Fitt said the Mountaineers need to finish “close to .500 in the league” while maintaining a top-45 RPI.
While struggling through a recent seven-game losing skid, WVU appeared to be freefalling. The team’s fortunes have brightened during the past nine days, however, thanks to winning five of six.
“At this point in the season I feel really good about this team,” Mazey said.
Despite the turnaround, West Virginia is only a half-game in front of last-place Kansas State, the preseason pick to repeat as Big 12 champs.
“Don’t let that record fool you—that lineup of theirs from top-to-bottom is really good,” Mazey said. “They’re capable of scoring eight to 10 runs a game.”
The Wildcats’ team batting average of .298 tops the Big 12, as does their 6.4 runs per game and .399 on-base percentage. Dangerous on the basepaths, K-State tops the league with 75 steals in 88 attempts.
Table-setting second baseman Ross Kivett, the reigning Big 12 player of the year, paces the league in runs (42) and steals (17), while ranking sixth in batting (.340) and second in on-base percentage (.460).
West Virginia has a few player of the year candidates itself: Center fielder Bobby Boyd has a healthy lead for the batting title at .384, stands seciond in runs per game (.97) and is tied for third with 15 steals. Clean-up hitting first baseman Ryan McBroom stands tied for conference lead with 38 RBIs.
Mazey plans to start Harrison Musgrave (3-3, 2.18 ERA) on Friday, followed by John Means (5-1, 1.41 ERA) on Saturday. The all-lefties weekend rotation concludes with the rapidly improving Ross Vance (2-0, 3.00 ERA) taking the mound Sunday.
“We’ve got the pitching, and the offense is rolling right now,” McBroom said. “I think we can go out and win some games.”