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WVU bound for Lexington Regional in third NCAA Tournament trip under Randy Mazey

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A year ago, the WVU baseball team was hoping for good news prior to the NCAA Selection Show. That good news never came as the Mountaineers were passed over by the selection committee after a 33-22 season.

There was no such drama on Monday as the Mountaineers gathered at Mon County Ballpark to watch the unveiling of the NCAA Tournament bracket. For the first time since 2019, West Virginia will compete in the NCAA Regional round.

West Virginia was selected as the No. 2 seed in the Lexington Regional, hosted by the No. 12 national seed, Kentucky. The Mountaineers (39-18) will face Indiana Friday at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+. Ball State is the No. 4 seed and they will face Kentucky in the opening game of the double-elimination regional.

“It is really hard to make a regional at West Virginia. When you get in, I was guilty of telling people I don’t care if they send us to Anchorage (Alaska). We’re in the postseason, man. That’s a big deal at West Virginia,” WVU head coach Randy Mazey said.

Kentucky is the No. 2 team in the official NCAA RPI. The Wildcats own a 25-6 record at Kentucky Proud Park. Kentucky posted a 16-14 record in SEC play.

Indiana (41-18) has achieved the program’s sixth 40-win season. The Hoosiers finished second in the Big Ten regular season standings, one game behind league champion Maryland.

Ball State (36-21) qualified for the NCAA Tournament by winning the Mid-American Conference Tournament title.

“Every team in this field is capable of winning a regional,” Mazey said. “Who you play really doesn’t matter, it is how you play. We are as good as anybody. If we play well, we will beat anybody. But our best players have to play good. It is that simple.”

This is West Virginia’s third trip to the NCAA Regionals in the last six completed seasons (no tournament was held in 2020). The Mountaineers advanced to the championship round of the Winston-Salem regional in 2017 and they hosted a regional in 2019.

Six of the nine Big 12 Conference teams have advanced to the NCAA Tournament. Oklahoma State is the lone regional host. TCU defeated OSU, 12-5 in the Big 12 Tournament Championship game Sunday evening. Texas, Texas Tech and 2022 national runner-up Oklahoma also earned at-large bids into the field of 64.

Oklahoma was one of the “Last Four In” the tournament field and Kansas State was one of the “Last Four Out”.

West Virginia (39-18) earned a share of their first Big 12 Conference regular season title with a 15-9 league mark. WVU shared the championship with Texas and Oklahoma State. Sophomore second baseman JJ Wetherholt is the Big 12 Player of the Year and head coach Randy Mazey is the league’s coach of the year. Mazey also earned that honor in 2019.

“Do you know how many really great programs with great traditions that we have beaten in order for that to happen? It is so, so difficult,” Mazey said. “You watch the (selection) show right now and all they talk about are the geographic disadvantages for teams in the northeast. Here we are with a geographical disadvantage over everybody we play, yet we are still beating them.”

WVU head coach Randy Mazey and Amanda Mazey look on during the NCAA Selection Show.

The Mountaineers climbed to as high as No. 6 in the national polls following a series victory over Texas Tech two weeks ago. However, West Virginia was swept in a three-game set at Texas to cap the regular season. The Mountaineers were also eliminated in two games at the Big 12 Tournament, costing them a chance to host regional games at Mon County Ballpark.

WVU enters the NCAA Tournament ranked 24th in the official NCAA RPI.

Last year, Mazey said he knew that WVU was not selected to the NCAA Tournament prior to the public unveiling of the brackets. This year, he opted for the surprise of seeing the bracket unfold while being surrounded by his team.

“Full disclosure — I always find out the night before where we are going and if we are in. I didn’t do that this year. I wanted to be surprised along with everybody else. Amanda and I didn’t know the sex of our children until they were born. So we are that kind of people,” Mazey said.

“Last year, I did want to find out. The worst thing you can do is gather your team together to watch the show and not get in. Once I knew we were in, I wanted to be surprised like everyone else.”

“Last year, we were very upset that we didn’t get in. We thought we did everything we could,” said WVU senior shortstop Tevin Tucker. Just like Coach [Mazey] said, we carried that chip on our shoulder the whole year. We didn’t want to make any doubt this year. So we just wanted to go out and play our game. We left no doubt to make sure we got in the tournament this year.”

“It is just a complete polar opposite. Last year when we were told we weren’t in, pretty much everyone was in tears crying,” said WVU sophomore second baseman JJ Wetherholt. “This year, we hear our name and everyone is jumping around and screaming.”

Lexington is a five-hour drive from Morgantown. It is the second-closest of the regional sites from the WVU campus.

“I hope all the Gold and Blue will show up and support us,” said Tucker. “Just from playing all these road games so early, I feel like it really helped us. Going to play on the road is just like playing at home for us. You get used to it.”

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