With fond memories of 2024 team, Mazey stresses future remains bright for baseball program

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Over 12 seasons as West Virginia’s head coach, Randy Mazey helped guide the Mountaineers to 372 victories, four of a possible 11 appearances in the NCAA Tournament and a share of the Big 12 Conference Championship in 2023.

Mazey was twice named Big 12 Coach of the Year and helped the Mountaineers achieve many program firsts, most notably breaking through to win the Tucson Regional this season, which allowed West Virginia to make its debut in a super regional series at North Carolina.

As Mazey’s coaching career came to a closure late Saturday when the Tar Heels hung to defeat the Mountaineers 2-1 and sweep the best-of-three series with a pair of narrow victories, the veteran skipper made it known why he was especially proud of the last team he will coach.

“The message was how proud not just I am, how proud they should be of themselves,” Mazey said. “How proud they have made our university, community and entire state. You guys just don’t understand what being at West Virginia is like and how many people out there are proud of these kids in these uniforms. This team as we sit here today will go down as the team that’s achieved the most in the history of the program over 120 years of baseball. We’ve never reached this point, so really proud.”

In the three days leading up to the super regional at Boshamer Stadium, Mazey and the Mountaineers played up the underdog card, well aware the national expectation was that North Carolina, the No. 4 overall seed, would advance to the College World Series and perhaps do so without much resistance from WVU.

As it turned out, West Virginia more than held its own in both games. The Mountaineers squandered a one-run ninth-inning lead in Friday’s series opener, which the Tar Heels won 8-6 courtesy of Vance Honeycutt’s walk-off home run. Yet that was with WVU throwing its ace in Derek Clark, and with the Tar Heels possessing one of the more feared offenses in college baseball, it would be quite a challenge to hang in with UNC without Clark on the mound.

Instead, Tyler Switalski overcame Honeycutt’s home run on the game’s first pitch to throw 6 1/3 innings and give the Mountaineers everything they could’ve hoped for and more. Switalski surrendered two runs, limited UNC to five hits and issued just one base-on-balls to go with four strikeouts.

Switalski was replaced by Carson Estridge, who threw 2 2/3 scoreless frames and struck out Honeycutt to escape a bases loaded jam in the seventh, allowing WVU to stay well within striking distance as it faced a 2-0 deficit at the time.

“That was a pretty hard-fought 18 innings,” Mazey said. “I don’t know that they were expecting that out of the Mountaineers to come down here and do what we did.”

The Mountaineers ended the matchup with the bases loaded and were a hit away from scoring a walk-off victory to force a decisive Game 3 that would’ve been played Sunday afternoon.

Mazey would have liked nothing more than to end his coaching career in Omaha with West Virginia making its first appearance in a College World Series. 

Instead, he will now transition to a senior advisor role within the program, while Steve Sabins is promoted from associate head coach as his replacement.

“We keep doing better than we’ve ever done before,” Mazey said, “and the next time we get to a super regional, let’s win it. There’s plenty of room to improve this Mountaineer program and I feel really good about the future of it.”

Mazey’s future will include especially fond memories of his 2024 team, one that fell short of its ultimate goal, but proved its worth on a national scale in the process.

“I told the guys going into the season don’t try and put statistical goals on yourself,” Mazey said. “Don’t try and hit .300 or win 10 games. Your goal every year should be to exceed expectations, and we’ve done that. So that’s why they should be proud. Personally, a lot of people say the old cliche is leave something better than you found out. I can feel good moving on in my career that we have 1.8 million people in the state of West Virginia that are proud of this program. I wouldn’t in any way shape or form take credit for that. I’m smart enough to surround myself with good people and that’s been the secret sauce. It’s been the people.”

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