MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — When a program like West Virginia is 21 years removed from its last NCAA baseball regional, including two recent near-misses, there’s no taking a postseason bid for granted.
Owners of four straight wins and a top-20 RPI, the Mountaineers (31-20) are hungry to solidify their resume during the regular season’s final weekend at Texas (32-19).
“Nothing’s guaranteed,” cautioned reliever Jackson Sigman. “We don’t want to leave any doubts for the committee to leave us out again.”
Baseball America’s Teddy Cahill projects West Virginia as a No. 2 seed, with a profile probably strong enough to absorb any potential breakdowns in Austin and the Big 12 tournament.
“Getting swept at Texas and going two-and out in Oklahoma City still might not kill their chances,” Cahill said. “If they went 0-5 they’d be under .500 in the conference, and while that’s not ideal, it’s also not a deal-breaker. Their RPI would still be pretty good and they still have a lot of positive things going for them.”
If Cahill is correct, WVU’s magic number is 1. One more win to remove all uncertainty. One more win to do what no Mountaineers team has done since 1996.
West Virginia’s strength-of-schedule stands 18th, and its 17 wins away from home are the fifth-most among teams from the six top-rated leagues. The Big 12, by the way, owns the No. 1 conference RPI.
“What they’ve been able to do in the Big 12 has been pretty solid,” Cahill said. “Especially the way they started in the Big 12 — beating TCU and going on the road to beat Baylor. Those are some solid series wins to have on the resume.”
Amid the bunched-up Big 12 standings, West Virginia can finish anywhere from second to seventh. By winning the series at Texas and making a deep run in OKC, the Mountaineers could elevate themselves into one of the NCAA’s 16 regional hosts. (And as MetroNews first reported last month, the school submitted a site bid just in case.)
TCU and Texas Tech are locks to open the NCAAs in their home ballparks, while Oklahoma — currently one game ahead of WVU in the Big 12 race — is projected to be the league’s third host.
“It’s possible the Big 12 could get four hosts but that’s a little tight,” Cahill said. His recipe for Monongalia County Ballpark landing a regional involves West Virginia leaping the Sooners in the Big 12 standings “because Oklahoma won that series head-to-head and has many metrics in their favor.”
During Randy Mazey’s four restorative seasons, the Mountaineers have twice landed on the wrong side of the NCAA bubble, including last season’s extra-innings loss in the Big 12 tournament championship game.
There’s less tension this time around, with desperation supplanted by confidence the Mountaineers belong in the field of 64.
“It’s definitely nice knowing we’ve got more baseball to play,” said first baseman Jackson Cramer. “Last year we didn’t know if we were going to make a regional, but if we take care of things now, I feel like we’ll be playing baseball for awhile.”