MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – Despite finishing last season fourth in the conference and as the Big 12 tournament runner-up, West Virginia baseball has been picked to finish seventh in the 2020 preseason poll.
The Mountaineers landed in seventh place with 26 points and one first-place vote. Texas Tech was picked to win the conference with 62 points and six first-place votes.
Head coach Randy Mazey said being picked seventh was a good thing for the team.
“That’s good, I wish they would pick us ninth every year,” Mazey said. “It’s a lot easier to play as the underdog than it is as the favorite. Your kids get fired up as the underdog every game.”
The 2020 season could be a rebuilding one for Mazey and the Mountaineers, as eight players from last season’s 38-22 team were drafted into the MLB. Mazey said a season like this is how a program can prove it has made progress.
“You don’t want to be a one-hit-wonder, so to speak, have one great year then not see it again for 20 years,” Mazey said. “When you build a program you have to sustain the level that you reach and then try to progress from there. I think that’s where we are right now.”
Junior second baseman Tyler Doanes led the team in batting average and OPS last season. He said getting to be underdogs is a big reason why some players come to WVU.
“It’s West Virginia baseball, we’re slept on every year. Last year we were down there too and look where we finished preseason stuff doesn’t really worry us,” Doanes said. “That’s a part of going to this school, that’s a part of why a lot of us came here. No one thinks that we’re ever going to be on the top so it’s great to surprise people.”
Doanes and catcher Paul McIntosh were selected to the All-Big 12 preseason team and figure to be the main contributors for WVU’s offense this season.
The Mountaineers open the season in Jacksonville, Florida on Feb. 14 against Jacksonville. Mazey said he plans to play a lot of guys early on in the season to see who can step up and take over roles that the team needs to be filled.
“The evolution of a program is; we had all the superstars last year, the guys that were role players are supposed to learn from the superstars and how they did it and gravitate into those roles as they get older,” Mazey said. “There’s some guys that’re going to have to do that. Some guys really step up when that’s the case and we definitely need that to happen this year.”
WVU’s first home game this season is on Feb. 18 against Canisius and Big 12 play begins on March 13 against Texas Tech.