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Going Through the Carolinas Creates Fitting Path for Randy Mazey in Final Season

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WVU baseball coach Randy Mazey at North Carolina's Boshamer Stadium on Thursday, June 6, 2024, ahead of playing UNC in the NCAA Tournament Super Regionals. (Mitchell Northam, WV Sports Now)
WVU baseball coach Randy Mazey at North Carolina's Boshamer Stadium on Thursday, June 6, 2024, ahead of playing UNC in the NCAA Tournament Super Regionals. (Mitchell Northam, WV Sports Now)

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Standing in the outfield at Boshamer Stadium on Thursday afternoon, memories from decades ago started rushing back into the mind of Randy Mazey. The West Virginia head baseball coach was watching his team prepare for Game One of Friday’s NCAA Tournament Super Regional against the Tar Heels, and seeing a fly ball sail into deep centerfield of the 52-year-old ballpark sparked a familiar feeling.

“I was watching the ball fly off the bat, just like I did in 1986,” Mazey said. “You know, it just looks the same.”

Back then, Mazey was a sophomore for the Clemson Tigers, doubling as a centerfielder and a pitcher. In Atlantic Coast Conference battles with the Tar Heels, he’s played on this field countless of times. Clemson won a pair of ACC crowns during Mazey’s days with the Tigers.

And Mazey has coached on this field quite a lot too. He spent four seasons as an assistant with his alma mater, three seasons as an assistant at Charleston Southern, and then one season as an assistant at East Carolina in 1998 before returning to Greenville, N.C., in 2003 to be the head skipper for the Pirates for three seasons.

“My time at East Carolina, we played several midweek games here,” Mazey recalled.

And in his second season with the Mountaineers in 2014, WVU came down to Chapel Hill for a one-off midweek regular season contest, which featured a complete-game performance from John Means. The now-Baltimore Orioles pitcher tossed nine innings, allowing just three hits, one walk and one run as WVU won 5-1.

“So, we’re not unfamiliar with this field at all,” said Mazey.

Or, at the very least, he isn’t.

WVU baseball coach Randy Mazey talks to a player at North Carolina's Boshamer Stadium on Thursday, June 6, 2024, ahead of playing UNC in the NCAA Tournament Super Regionals. (Mitchell Northam, WV Sports Now)

WVU baseball coach Randy Mazey talks to a player at North Carolina’s Boshamer Stadium on Thursday, June 6, 2024, ahead of playing UNC in the NCAA Tournament Super Regionals. (Mitchell Northam, WV Sports Now)

As the 58-year-old coach nears the end of his career, it’s fitting that Mazey’s final run at postseason glory has to pass through the Carolinas, where he’s spent so much time on baseball diamonds scattered across the region. Since 1985, from the time he was a freshman at Clemson, Mazey spent a combined 15 years of his baseball career at three different programs in the Carolinas. This season – which the Johnstown, Pennsylvania native has announced is his last in the dugout – is his 12th leading the Mountaineers.

This postseason marked the fourth time that Mazey guided the Mountaineers to the NCAA Tournament. After a quick exit from the Big 12 Tournament with back-to-back losses to TCU and Kansas State, expectations for WVU were low as it traveled to regional play in Tucson, Ariz. But with nothing to lose – and perhaps a bit motivated by wanting to send their head coach out on a high note – the Mountaineers won three straight games out in Arizona to advance to the Super Regionals for the first time in program history.

“It’s definitely something we’ve built around to use as motivation… Skip has given everything to the program and to the state. He’s done such a great job,” WVU shortstop J.J. Wetherholt said. “It’s the least that we can do is try to play hard for him.”

To lead the Mountaineers to another stage they’ve never been on – the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska – Mazey is going to have to get the best of a man he hired years ago to assist him at East Carolina, Scott Forbes.

Well, hired him for a few days, anyway – 17 to be exact. Then Forbes had a change of heart and returned to UNC-Chapel Hill to work under then-coach Mike Fox.

“And I was so happy for him because he’s a Coach Fox-guy. What a perfect fit for this program,” Mazey said of Forbes. “Couldn’t be happier for him and the success that he’s had here. I have a ton of respect for Coach Forbes and what he’s done here. He’s a great friend, always has been.”

Forbes succeeded Fox four years ago as the Tar Heels’ head skipper.

The feeling of respect between Forbes and Mazey is mutual.

“They’re extremely well-coached,” Forbes said of WVU. “I’ve known Coach Mazey a long time. They’re here for a reason.”

While this run through the postseason is the final hurrah for Mazey, he’s put an emphasis on making sure his players enjoy this moment, rather than himself. An example of that surfaced in the travel plans over the last week. The Mountaineers got a charter flight from Arizona back to Morgantown, and another from there to Chapel Hill. But the charter flights only had room for 30 people. So, instead of taking a seat, Mazey gave it up to a player. He took a commercial flight home from Arizona – which included a three-hour layover in Atlanta, Ga. – and rode the bus carrying the team’s equipment down to Chapel Hill.

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“I refused to pull a player (off the charter)… I was in Atlanta when they were nestled in their beds,” Mazey said. “This is about them right now. It’ll always be about them and always has been about them. I want them to have these experiences that I’ve already had.”

Mazey has been to the College World Series three times as an assistant coach: with Clemson in 1991, Tennessee in 2001, and TCU in 2010. He’s hoping that, if things break the right way for the Mountaineers and they upset the fourth-overall-seeded Tar Heels, he’ll be able to give his players the gift of that experience too.

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