MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Considering Randy Mazey was jittery despite a six-run, ninth-inning lead on Sunday, he’s hardly counting his West Virginia team as an NCAA tournament lock.
With two weeks left in the regular season, however, the Mountaineers are positioned to make their first regional appearance since 1996.
After taking two of three from Texas over the weekend, West Virginia has won three consecutive Big 12 series. And though its 26-17 overall record doesn’t leap off the page, WVU entered Monday with a No. 22 RPI and a 9-8 mark that was good for fourth place in the Big 12, the second-rated RPI league in the nation.
That profile looks like a cinch for the 64-team NCAA field. Yet as Mazey cautioned Monday afternoon: “You get surprised every year by the teams that get in and the teams that get left out.”
The latest dispatches from baseball bracketologists favor West Virginia. College Baseball Daily projects the Mountaineers as a No. 2 seed in the four-team Baton Rouge regional, while ChasingOmaha.com has Mazey’s squad as a No. 2 seed in Gainesville, Fla.
Baseball America writer Aaron Fitt, whose next projected field will be unveiled Wednesday, said he has West Virginia “solidly in as of right now.” However, the Mountaineers close out the season with road trips to Kansas (which has won seven straight games) and Texas Tech (which is 28-4 at home).
“I think West Virginia is in great shape after winning that Texas series, although they still have two tough road series coming up, so they can’t let up,” Fitt said. “If they lose both of those last two series, they might find themselves back on the bubble, but I think an 11-12 conference record will probably be good enough, coupled with WVU’s strong RPI and quality wins.”
Fitt currently forecasts the Big 12 as a six-bid league, with TCU, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Texas as locks, followed by West Virginia and Kansas in comfortable position.
Not that Mazey’s comfortable. A swoon through Lawrence and Lubbock, followed by a poor showing at the Big 12 tournament in Oklahoma City, could unravel much of this season’s good work.
“We just have to finish strong,” Mazey said. “We’ve really got a tough stretch coming up.”
West Virginia, which has won five of its past six nonconference games, faces Virginia Tech (19-27) on Tuesday night in Princeton, W.Va. What three weeks ago looked like a schedule-boosting matchup now has lost some luster, with the Hokies dropping nine of 10 and plummeting to 126 in the RPI. But don’t tell that to the fans who scarfed up all 1,700-plus tickets, making for a rare midweek sellout.
West Virginia plans to start senior right-hander Corey Walter (1-4, 4.88 ERA), who showed signs of a turnaround in his last outing on April 23, holding Marshall to two runs over seven innings in a 10-3 win.