MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia baseball coach Randy Mazey knows last impressions can be persuasive for the NCAA selection committee. So, as his Mountaineers travel to Kansas to begin a seven-game season-ending road trip, the stakes are heavy.
Both teams are streaking and aiming to remain in the upper half of the Big 12 standings: West Virginia (27-17, 9-8) has won nine of 10 games, while Kansas (30-21, 12-9) has claimed six of seven.
The three-game set opens Friday in Lawrence at 7 p.m. Eastern, with video streaming available on ESPN3.com.
“This series is going to be huge,” Mazey said. “If we do get four or five or maybe six postseason bids in this league, this series could end up being a swing vote. Whoever wins this series could have a leg up.”
At No. 22 in the RPI, the Mountaineers presently sit on the safe side of the NCAA bubble. Yet the next two weekend series in Lawrence and at Texas Tech could drastically impact the postseason. Winning those series could make West Virginia a possibility to host a regional (should the school submit a bid); falling apart could leave WVU in danger of missing the field of 64 all together.
“We’re getting ready to run into two really good teams on the road, so that’s going to be a real test for us,” Mazey said.
The number-cruncher behind WarrenNolan.com gave MetroNews his best guess at a few RPI scenarios based upon how West Virginia fares in its final six league games:
— At 4-2, WVU could climb to No. 16 in the RPI.
— At 3-3, the Mountaineers likely would be no worse than No. 26.
— Go 2-4 and WVU could slip to 30.
A closing stretch any worse than that—and remember there’s a midweek game at Maryland—would put the Mountaineers on the historical RPI cutline.
“We’ve still got a ton of work to do,” Mazey said. “It’s going to be a grind here going down the stretch.”
Kansas possesses plenty of motivation itself, ranked No. 40 in the RPI entering Friday night’s opener. The Jayhawks, swept by WVU in three one-run games last season in Beckley, plan to start Jordan Piche’ (6-5, 4.65 ERA). The senior right-hander has tossed back-to-back complete games, including a one-hitter against Baylor.
Harrison Musgrave (5-3, 2.11), also having won his last two starts, is scheduled to go for the Mountaineers.
Though West Virginia leads the Big 12 in team batting at .293 and ranks 34th nationally, the lineup could be missing center fielder Bobby Boyd, whose right hand was hit by a pitch against Texas last Sunday. Hitting out of the No. 2 spot, Boyd’s .376 average tops the conference, while his 43 runs rank third and his 15 steals rank fourth.