WVU Baseball Channeling ‘Rocky’ in Quest for Big 12 Title
WVU Baseball secured a share of their first regular season Big 12 Championship in program history Saturday, when they managed to finish atop the standings in a three way tie with Texas and Oklahoma State.
Only one team can remain standing at the end of the Big 12 Tournament (and lock in an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament in doing so), though, and head coach Randy Mazey and his coaching staff opted for an unorthodox plan for their starting pitchers as the tournament begins.
Into the Fire
“We’re gonna start David Hagaman on Wednesday,” Mazey said. “That’ll be his first start.”
Hagaman, a true freshman, pitched to a 2.30 ERA in 20 appearances and 31.1 innings thrown this season.
While he’s only played as a reliever to date, Mazey didn’t specify whether the Mountaineers plan to use him as an opener for the first inning or two, or if they want him to go deeper into the game. He did drop hints though.
“I think we need to get off to a really good start,” Mazey said. “Try and get into the middle of a game and have a chance to win it.”
Trusting a true freshman with no career starts under his belt to open the biggest game of the year certainly constitutes a roll of the dice, but championships don’t fall into the laps of the faint of heart.
Strategically, it’ll help keep the Mountaineers’ top arms fresh as they advance deeper into the conference tournament, allowing them to counterpunch against the cream of the crop.
For Mazey, the move also stems from a desire to keep Texas Tech, their opponent in the open inning game, on their toes.
Mazey spoke to the ability of Texas Tech’s potent offense, which the Mountaineers largely managed to shut down during their series in Morgantown two weeks ago. Rather than giving the Red Raiders another look at West Virginia’s starters with the Mountaineers fresh on the mind, Mazey will give the true freshman the ball in the biggest start of his life.
“I have a ton of confidence in this team,” Mazey said. “There’s never going to be a day that I take the field where I don’t have 100 percent belief in every guy in uniform.
Rocky Road Ahead
In preparing the Mountaineers for the conference tournament, Mazey said he opted for one of the greatest stories in the history of sports cinema: that of Rocky Balboa overcoming overwhelming odds in his battle for a world championship against Apollo Creed.
“I asked…if they had seen the Rocky movies, the original Rocky movies,” Mazey said. “Believe it or not, some guys on our team raised their hand that they had never seen that movie.”
Mazey said he managed to get his point across in spite of the generational divide.
“[You] don’t have to win every round to win the fight, you know, you’ve just gotta win it at the end,” Mazey said. “We’re going into the ninth round right now of a ten round fight. You’ve just gotta win…one round at a time.”
In doing so, Mazey said the Mountaineers are putting everything behind them, whether it’s their series win over Texas Tech or their disappointing sweep at the hands of Texas.
“Who cares if you won round five, six or seven, or if you lost round three or four? When you get to round nine, man, those are the championship rounds,” Mazey said. “That’s when you’ve gotta step up, that’s when you’re tired, when you’ve been punched in the face the whole game…You’ve just gotta forget about it, and when the bell rings come out and go knock the other team out.”
Even though his team won a share of the conference title, Mazey still looks at the Mountaineers as the underdog entering the tournament, referencing a preseason poll that predicted WVU Baseball to finish the season as cellar-dwellers. He said he looks at it as a chance to feed off the disrespect.
“We’re Rocky, man, we [were picked to] finish sixth in this league,” said Mazey. “In typical fashion, no one thinks we can win…we’re gonna come out and play with a chip on our shoulder like we always do.”