When building a house, the first thing you do after locating a site is build the foundation. Big 12 Coach of the Year Randy Mazey has built his foundation since becoming the coach at West Virginia University in 2013. That foundation is now becoming a powerhouse in the Big 12.
During Mazey’s seven years at WVU, the Mountaineers reached post season play for the first time in 21 years in 2017, had an NCAA Regional Final appearance for the third time in program history, three consecutive Big 12 Championship semi-final appearances, and an appearance in the conference title game in 2016.
In conference play, the Mountaineers have finished in the top four of the standings for four of its first seven years in the Big 12, including this year. WVU finished with a 13-11 conference record, tied for its best league record since joining the conference prior to the 2013 season, and the fourth-place finish is tied for its second-highest. The Mountaineers were the only team to win six Big 12 series.
Success doesn’t come easy, especially when you are the first coach to guide a team in such a challenging conference like the Big 12. Mazey came in from TCU and had to find his guys. While difficult, he eventually he found the right pieces to be successful and didn’t shy away from recruiting Texas.
“When we first got here, we recruited a lot of Texas kids because that’s where we came from. Those were the kids we knew at the time. Those guys were being recruited, when we were still playing at Hawley Field. They kind of stepped out on a limb, to come to West Virginia, and play in the Big 12, it wasn’t easy getting those guys. But, I think they saw the vision for program and what the future is going to be like. Their opportunity to do things that have never been done before, guys like Darius Hill and Ivan Gonzalez, who also came from Texas, those guys took a leap of faith.”
That leap of faith certainly paid off, as the Mountaineers find themselves entering Big 12 Championship play at historic heights. Big 12 Pitcher of the Year, Alek Manoah has the all-time single season strike out record set back in 1964, Darius Hill has the program record for doubles, at bats, and starts. The list goes on and on. I would put everything down for you, but you might not have an hour of time to read the list.
Records are nice, but the way the Mountaineers have played as a team all year, especially at this point of the season, would make any coach smile. 34 regular-season wins are WVU’s most since a 36-win regular season in 2009. WVU has won four in a row and seven of its last eight games, which gives Mazey the type of confidence and belief that something special could happen in Oklahoma City.
“I couldn’t imagine being in a better spot right now. Nick Snyder our game one starter being the mid-week guy all season, and staying in his routine. Which enables Alek Manoah to stay in his routine, Kade Strowd to stay in his routine, so that is rare when that happens. Swinging the bats well coming in here, I think all the stars have lined up pretty well, to make me feel well about where we’re at down here.”
The Mountaineers have enjoyed a lot of success in the Big 12 championship, starting with year one, when WVU won games against TCU and Oklahoma State in a weather effected tournament that required the eight teams to be divided into two pools for a round robin format. The next year, the Mountaineers knocked off Kansas until losing back to back games to TCU and Baylor. In 2016, the Mountaineers reached the championship game by knocking off Oklahoma and Texas Tech.
Nine wins in seven tournament appearances? Not too bad for a program only a few years into the Big 12 that has a stadium younger than my daughter. Despite the success in the tournament, post season play in Regionals locked up after the Big 12 Championship this year, there is still a chance to host a regional round, which would be the first time in program history, and could take the program to even bigger heights.
“That really I think would change the face of our entire program, from a national recognition stand point, from the community, fan base, everybody in the state of West Virginia that would want to come see us play. Until you’ve seen a regional in your own facility, from a fan’s perspective, you really don’t understand the impact it makes on the future of your program.”
The ride that is the Big 12 Baseball championship starts today for the Mountaineers at 10 am ET on Fox College Sports against the 5 seeded Jayhawks of Kansas. Even though the Mountaineers are riding on their own momentum, the Jayhawks have been the hottest team in the country fighting their way up the conference standings past TCU to grab a spot against the Mountaineers. Mazey knows his team can’t overlook the Jayhawks.
“One of the hottest teams in the league. I think our guys in their minds prepared to play TCU in the first game. It took Kansas to sweep their last series to over take TCU in the standings. Be careful what you ask for when you get Kansas because you are getting a really hot team.”
Good luck to the Mountaineers as Mazey continues to build on his foundation and a historic season. Between the horrid basketball season and disappointing finish to the football season, Mazey and his squad have been the talk of the state, and the savior for Mountaineer nation. Finally, let’s go Mountaineers!