WVU baseball team no longer a group of underdogs

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — When Randy Mazey was hired to lead the WVU baseball program in the summer of 2012, the idea for Monongalia County Ballpark still consisted of just sketches on paper.

This year, the Mountaineers enter the 2021 season ranked 14th in the D1 Baseball preseason national poll.

“It is nice to see it but you hope the players don’t read it,” Mazey said. “It sure does help in spring practices when you are always trying to be better. Those rankings can be good or bad. But it is nice to finally get some acknowledgement about what we have done here and the type of players we have here and the success we have had.”

That success has come through a steady climb, helped in large part by the completion of WVU’s Granville stadium in 2015. Expectations couldn’t have been much lower outside the Mountaineer program during West Virginia’s first Big 12 season in 2013.

“We were playing an intrasquad game at Hawley Field and our SID (sports information director) Grant Dovey came down to practice and told me that the preseason coaches poll just came out in the Big 12. And the Mountaineers were picked last by everyone in the poll that had a vote. There wasn’t one person who had a vote who even said ‘next-to-last’.

“I called timeout in the middle of the intrasquad, got the guys together and said, ‘Hey man, I just got some great news. Everybody thinks you are no good. What an opportunity that has just been presented to you to go out and prove some things to everyone’. Playing under that kind of mentality, we finished third.”

No longer an underdog at the higher levels of Division I baseball, the Mountaineers qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 2017 and hosted an NCAA Regional two years later.

“Champions don’t take days off. You might not be out there practicing everyday but if you want to be a champion, you have to eat right, sleep right and keep your body in great shape. You have to live with the times we are in right now and stay safe. If you take days off and other people don’t, they will catch you. We are going to take the field everyday like we are expecting to win the game no matter who we play against.”

The Mountaineers were off to a solid start a quarter of the way through the 2020 schedule before the pandemic ended the college baseball season nationwide. Despite opening practice in mid-January and dodging snow and ice throughout the preseason, Mazey credits use of the Caperton Indoor Practice Facility for giving his team the best practice environment possible.

“That’s something we have that not a lot of other northern teams have with the ability to go in there and play some intrasquads and do some things that other schools don’t have the ability to do. I have told our administration that the facility normally helps us in the way come out of the gates. Last year, we came out 11-5 and it was our best record through 16 games since we have been here.”

Big 12 teams should release their 2021 schedules this week. There had been discussion amongst coaches to increase their traditional 24-game league schedule to 32 games. Mazey says the WVU slate has endured frequent edits.

“It was in pen. Then it went to pencil. Then I started getting out colored pencils. It looks like a train wreck on a piece of paper right now until it gets finalized. Then we will transfer it technologically to a computer.”

The college baseball season is expected to begin nationwide on February 19, 49 weeks after the Mountaineers saw a promising start to 2020 get erased.

“I think it is going to be amazing how when we take the field for that first game that at least for those two to three hours we are playing, we’re probably not even going to think about this pandemic going on. It will be good for the guys to get back out there. It has been a long time coming.”





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