MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The expectations surrounding West Virginia’s baseball program weren’t supposed to accelerate this quickly, to a point where the NCAA selection show actually held drama. Even if the drama turned out to be the disappointing kind.
Yet there was coach Randy Mazey on Monday coping with enough dejection to fill a dugout. Memorial Day—the unofficial start of summer, the official end of his team’s season.
He had wanted fortifying news from the NCAA Division I baseball gatekeepers. What he received instead was a text from a committee member informing that the Mountaineers were the first team out.
“Although I appreciated him telling me that, it will probably be something I carry with me until we take the field again next February,” Mazey said.
“In the field of 64, the Mountaineers finished 65th.”
This wasn’t a certifiable snub that befell his team. It resided among a cluster of eight or nine teams who warranted level consideration for the final few regional bids. Yes, West Virginia’s 38 RPI was the best of any omitted team, but to lean heavily on such a flawed formula is to reduce the postseason to the domain of spreadsheets.
The math suggested WVU was pretty good. The 10 panelists decided Mazey’s team wasn’t quite good enough.
“I try and teach my guys sometimes life isn’t fair and you’ve got to deal with things you perceive as unfair,” said the coach. “If I don’t handle this the right way, how in the world am I going to expect them to?
“I’m just going to use it as fuel and motivation for next season.”
Next season will be Mazey’s third in Morgantown, and West Virginia’s third in the talent-rich Big 12. Under his brief watch, the Mountaineers have finished third and sixth in the conference. Mind you, this is a program that in the 13 years pre-Mazey averaged only a seventh-place finish in the less-imposing Big East.
That stands as proof of improvement, even though West Virginia’s 18-year NCAA dry spell continues. Voices from the past concur.
“I can’t believe it’s been 18 years,” said Jeremy Cummings, a 10-year minor-leaguer who pitched on the last NCAA team in 1996. “But the way Coach Mazey is running that program, he’s righting the ship.
“I think he’s an awesome person who motivates kids and teaches them about baseball and manhood. Every time I’ve been around him I learned something.”
Next season also brings the debut of a new ballpark—one that actually boasts the triple-crown of locker rooms, a clubhouse and indoor plumbing. (Players won’t soon be nostalgic for those port-o-lets behind the dugouts at Hawley Field.)
“The pinnacle of this program will come after we’ve had three or four recruiting classes that can actually walk through that new stadium,” Mazey said.
With back-to-back winning seasons, WVU baseball has rapidly climbed toward respectable environs, no longer content to live among the dozens of middling northern programs. There’s a satisfying undertone to the turnaround produced by Mazey and his players, no matter how much Monday’s near-miss gnawed at them.