Connect with us

WVU Baseball

Mazey’s Gambles, Hampton’s Maturity Stand Out in WVU’s Season Opener



WVU Baseball HC Randy Mazey

The West Virginia Mountaineers dropped their first game of the season 4-3 against the Georgia Southern Eagles. Starting pitcher Ben Hampton lived up to his billing after an outstanding offseason, punching out eight across six innings while allowing just one earned run, although four uncharacteristic free passes and a hit batter hurt his final line. 

The Mountaineers’ bullpen couldn’t hold up their end of the bargain, though, spurring a three-run seventh by the Eagles (including the eventual game-winner).

It’s early yet, but here’s what stood out in West Virginia’s first game of the season. 

Riverboat Randy: Aggressive Decisions Spur Mountaineers

The Mountaineers have made it clear that they know how high the stakes are in every game, how any loss could be the one that ends their season when it comes time for the selection committee to pick who will compete in the 2023 NCAA Tournament.

No one made that mentality more obvious than head coach Randy Mazey, who made gutsy decisions throughout the game. The first came in the fourth inning, when left fielder Landon Wallace had the green light to steal home and give West Virginia the lead. The next came in the sixth inning, when Hampton had runners at the corners with no outs. Rather than give him the hook, Mazey elected to trust his ace, even with a pitch count in the high 70s—in the first game of the season, no less. Hampton responded with a pitching masterclass, striking out the side to strand the runners. 

Even in a losing effort, the times that Mazey chose to roll the dice paid off in spades for his team.

Bullpen Blues

Pitching depth is difficult to come by in any baseball league, much less the NCAA. Whether it was simply a case of opening day nerves or a sign of things to come, the Mountaineers’ bullpen struggled in their first game of the season as Georgia Southern took the lead for good after putting up a three spot in the seventh inning. 

In an interview Wednesday, Mazey said that the Mountaineers have “eight guys that are fighting for three or four [starting pitcher] spots.” 

As the Mountaineers’ staff finalizes their rotation over the next few weeks, it’ll be interesting to see how that impacts the rest of the roster: whether those who don’t lock down a starting role get looks out of the pen, or if Mazey opts for players who’ve traditionally spent time in relief. 

Of course, that will be a moot point if the bullpen rebounds effectively.

Hampton Settles In

Free passes killed the Mountaineers in the second inning, as a walk, hit by pitch, and a pair of throwing errors all helped the Eagles take the lead. Hampton steadied the ship from there, though, fighting back to retire 11 consecutive batters and giving his offense time to get their bearings. Just like when he bounced back for three consecutive swinging strikeouts in the sixth inning, Hampton’s ability to block out the noise and pitch to great success after hitting a rough patch really stood out. He’s a cerebral pitcher, and his maturity will be a boon for West Virginia this season, both on the field and in the locker room.

Get WVSN in your mailbox!

Enter your email address to subscribe to WVSN and receive notifications of new posts by email.