From Staff Reports
Randy Mazey’s attention has been on everything but baseball in recent days, as the West Virginia University coach has been out in front of his team’s effort to help the tornado victims in Oklahoma, where his team has been this week preparing for the Big 12 Baseball Championships, which begin today at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City, Okla.
But with the opening game against Kansas at hand at 5 p.m. today, Mazey had no choice but to turn his attention to the action on the field, and he quickly made a change in his strategy.
The tournament, which was originally scheduled for a Wednesday start before the disaster in nearby Moore, Okla., has been changed to pool play instead of double elimination. Seeds Nos. 1, 4, 5 and 8 will be in one pool, and seeds Nos. 2, 3, 6 and 7 in the second pool. The teams with the best record in each pool will then advance to Sunday’s title game.
“I think the change in format actually helps us,” said Mazey. “You don’t go into an elimination game on Friday. You feel like you have a chance, no matter how the first game goes. It is going to come down to a three-game series. We’ve won several series in the Big 12 this year, and this is just another one that you have to play different teams throughout.”
WVU, the third seed, will take on No. 6 Kansas today, No. 7 TCU Friday and No. 2 Oklahoma State on Saturday to try to build up its resume to advance. Big 12 Pitcher of the Year Harrison Musgrave was originally scheduled to pitch in the first game of the tournament. With the changes, he’ll instead take the hill in the second game against TCU.
Dan Dierdorff is expected to get the nod today, in a game that will air live on ROOT Sports Pittsburgh.
“They switched the schedule on us, so we are going to go back and switch the schedule on them,” said Mazey. “We are going to match up certain pitchers against certain teams, so we are going to use Dan Dierdorff against Kansas, and we are going to use Harrison in our second game against TCU. It is something that we, as coaches, have talked about, and we have involved both pitchers in the decision. We are going into it very confident.”
Dierdorff, a senior, has faced the Jayhawks before. He allowed three runs on seven hits in a complete game 4-3 victory at Beckley’s Linda K. Epling Stadium on April 27.
“When you get to the end of the year, seniors have a way of playing better later in their careers,” said Mazey. “Their experience really helps them out. I don’t think he will get caught up in the big crowd and the big stadium. He has been around for awhile, and he will be focused.”
Although baseball will be the focus of the tournament, the players and coaches won’t forget about those impacted by the tornado. The Big 12 Conference Board of Directors announced a donation of $200,000 to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. The contribution will come from the proceeds of the Big 12 Baseball Championship.
“The Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship is a longstanding fixture in Oklahoma City. Additionally, the State of Oklahoma and its wonderful people are integral parts of our league,” said Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. “Our hearts go out to those affected by this terrible tragedy and this donation is one small way to provide relief to a city that has supported our membership so well over many years.”