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How WVU Baseball, ISU Softball Became Fast Friends



ISU softball team cheers on WVU baseball team

They may play for rival schools in the same conference, but that didn’t stop the WVU Baseball team and the Iowa State Softball team from becoming fast friends last weekend. Here’s a look at how it happened.

After Iowa State was eliminated from the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in March, the Cyclones’ Barstool Sports Twitter page complained that without a baseball team, they wouldn’t have any sports to root for until August, when football started back up.

That tweet caught the eye of Lea Nelson, an outfielder for the Cyclones’ softball team. She knew she had to stand up for her teammates.

“I was definitely frustrated when I saw that, especially since Barstool has supported us in the past,” Nelson said. “We sent it in our team group chat and everyone else was really upset, so I knew I couldn’t keep my mouth shut…I didn’t really expect it to go off.”

Nelson’s tweet got more than 2.4 million views: one of those views was Brayden Cline, admin of WVU’s Barstool twitter page. Cline reacted to the slight with gusto, ready to show up opposing fans in a way that only Mountaineers fans can. 

“I thought it was a good opportunity, because at the same time where we are conference rivals and it would probably be weird to root for them, I saw it as a good opportunity to kinda put [the Iowa State] Barstool in their place,” Cline said. “If you’re not gonna root for them, then we’ll do it for you, and we’ll do it better than you can.”

West Virginia doesn’t have a softball team, the Cyclones don’t have a baseball team: why couldn’t they root for each other?

WVU Baseball, Iowa State Softball Become Unlikely Friends

A Friendship is Born

While the two fanbases tweeted back and forth a bit in the following weeks, nothing came of it until last weekend, when both WVU Baseball and ISU Softball found themselves in Stillwater, Okla. to take on the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

Nelson said the Cyclones didn’t realize the scheduling mashup until some of their coaches ran into WVU’s players at a restaurant. She immediately knew what to do.

“We were hitting before our game on Friday and a couple of our coaches were like ‘hey, we saw some of the West Virginia Baseball players out to eat, they must be playing here,’” Nelson said. “I was like ‘oh that’s perfect…I’ve gotta tweet at them, see if i can get tickets to the game.’”

Nelson said she didn’t think anything would come of her tweet: people might enjoy her commitment to the fandom mashup, but there wasn’t a prayer of getting tickets to the players’ friends and family section the night before the game. Still, it didn’t hurt to try.

Nelson tagged the WVU Barstool and WVU Baseball Twitter accounts, which caught the eye of Mountaineers’ relief pitcher Noah Short.

It’s All Coming Together

“I saw some of their players tweeting about it, requesting tickets and stuff, so I was like “you know, it’d be a pretty cool experience for them to come out and support us in a place like Oklahoma State,” Short said. “[I] reached out to our Director of Operations [Joey Cuomo], they got it all set up for them. Pretty cool that they could make that happen.”

Cline noticed Nelson’s tweet as well, sending a direct message to the WVU Baseball Twitter account to make sure team officials were on it. 

From there the situation developed quickly.

“They didn’t know how likely it would be to pull it off, because the tickets have to be requested two weeks in advance for family and friends. They said they’d ask around and get back to me,” Cline said. “Props to them, it was less than an hour before they got back to me and said ‘we think we’ll probably be able to pull it off.’”

Nelson said she knew the dominos fell into place when the Mountaineers asked who they should send the tickets to.

“I was like ‘oh my gosh, this could actually happen,’” Nelson said. “It wasn’t until they asked for a point of contact to get us the tickets…they were able to come up with 30-something tickets for us to go to this baseball game for a team we didn’t really know of.”

Much-Needed Support

Short said the Cyclones’ support meant a lot in a hostile road environment.

“A place like Stillwater, the fans there, the atmosphere, it’s an awesome ballpark and they pack a lot of people in there. You have some fans talking to you the whole time, trying to get you out of your game, your zone,” Short said. “To have some fans there that are super loud and make it known that they are there to support you. It fires you up and it gives you more of a will to win when you’re playing for somebody else.”

The Iowa State players fit right in with the West Virginia fans, who always travel well.

“It’s cool to have someone that’s willing to cheer you on like that in a hostile environment,” Short said. “There’s West Virginia fans everywhere, and it’s pretty cool because not every school goes away and has fans that show up…you get that support everywhere, no matter [where we go].”

While they received a fair share of chirps from the Oklahoma State fans, the Cyclones made their presence known during the Saturday game, a 9-5 road win for the Mountaineers against the then-No. 18 team in the country. Outfielder Angelica Gonzalez even caught a souvenir ball for her trouble.

“It was just kind of funny because in softball they always ask for us to return foul balls. We saw that the baseball players were throwing them into the crowd…our whole team was like ‘we’re getting a foul ball!” Nelson said. “We were screaming after they were playing catch in between an inning, he just chucked it right up and Angelica snagged it.”

Song Swap

In a twist of irony, Iowa State’s sports teams sing Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” after victories. During the same week WVU Baseball faced off against the Pittsburgh Panthers in the Backyard Brawl, Mountaineers fans found themselves rooting for a team that uses the same anthem as the hated Panthers. Cline said he made sure to set the record straight on how the lyrics should go. 

“We’ve talked to the players,” Cline said. “I think they know the real way to sing it now.”

Nelson said Cline wasn’t alone in that effort: WVU fans made sure to reach out as well.

“They told us we needed to sing it a different way. A few West Virginia fans were messaging me on twitter, tagging me and they were like ‘here’s links [on how] to properly sing Sweet Caroline,” Nelson said. “It was just hilarious because they weren’t mad that we were singing it. They just wanted us to sing it their way.”

The Cyclones didn’t just sing Sweet Caroline after their win on Sunday. They also sang Country Roads on the team bus. 

“For them to play that, and celebrate and share that tradition with us,” Short said. “It was pretty cool.” 

West Virginia Welcome

While the Iowa State Barstool page has tried to salvage the situation, hyping the Cyclones up after wins, Nelson said the team isn’t looking back after the warmth of West Virginia hospitality.

“They [ISU Barstool] tweeted at us after we beat Oklahoma State, and I know West Virginia replied to them and said ‘welcome to the party, fellas,’” Nelson said. “All the girls on the team kind of agree, you don’t get to support us at our highs when you didn’t support us at our lows. We’ve kind of ignored Iowa State’s Barstool and just fully ran with West Virginia.”

Nelson said that some of the Mountaineers’ parents joined in the support, adopting the Cyclones’ softball team as their own.

“First baseman [Grant Hussey’s] dad has been a core memory for our whole team. He’s been tweeting at us since the West Virginia baseball game that we went to,” Nelson said. “The second an Oklahoma State fan or someone who’s confused about this whole thing will tweet, [Hussey’s] dad will tweet back at them and be like ‘No, these are my girls, this is my softball team’…It’s funny because we’re kind of taught as student athletes not to respond to hate tweets.” 

With the elder Hussey and Mountaineers fans standing up for them, they don’t have to.

“It’s just hilarious that even the baseball parents are getting involved…it’s incredibly nice, I was not expecting it,” Nelson said. “No matter if we’re winning or losing, whatever we do they’re just still gonna support us… even though it was last week that we went to the baseball game, they’re still supporting us.”

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