By Cam Huffman
After 43 years of baseball, nearly 1,000 games and thousand of players calling its grass home, Hawley Field, the home of West Virginia University baseball since 1971, will host one final series this weekend, and it’s going out with a bang.
The Mountaineers (24-16, 7-7 Big 12) will host national baseball power Texas (33-12, 10-8 Big 12) in a critical conference series beginning with a 6 p.m. start tonight in Morgantown. Saturday’s game will begin at 4 p.m., and the final contest at Hawley Field is scheduled for a 1 p.m. first pitch on Sunday.
“It’s going to be a very emotional weekend for a lot of people,” WVU’s second-year head coach Randy Mazey told WVUSports.com. “There have been a lot of baseball players who have played on Hawley Field over the last (four decades), and she’s going away after this weekend. A lot of guys are coming back, and we’re going to let them stand on the field for the national anthem one last time. That’s going to mean a lot to those guys, because there’s a lot of memories on there. To do it against one of the richest programs in college baseball, you couldn’t have scripted a better weekend.
“It’s just a chance to see their buddies, tell some stories and enjoy some good baseball.”
The weekend will be filled with festivities. At tonight’s game, Carol Ramsburg, the wife of former WVU baseball coach Dale Ramsburg, will be throwing out the first pitch. Ramsburg, the winningest coach in WVU history, served from 1968 through 1994 and won 540 games in 26 years.
Saturday’s game will include on-field alumni recognition, with various former pitchers throwing out the first pitch.
Sunday will be senior day, and Bill Hawley, the son of Hawley Field namesake Roy “Legs” Hawley will toss the first pitch.
The biggest attraction, though, will be the action between the white lines, with the conference’s fifth place team, WVU, taking on the fourth place Longhorns.
Harrison Musgrave (4-3, 1.95 ERA), the 2013 Big 12 Pitcher of the Year, will start today’s game for WVU, going up against Texas right-hander Parker French (5-3, 2.08 ERA). Musgrave will be the first of three lefties starting for the Mountaineers, with Ross Vance (3-0, 2.57 ERA) going Saturday and John Means (5-1, 2.10 ERA) starting Sunday.
Texas will pitch left-hander Dillon Peters (5-3, 2.50 ERA) Saturday and right-hander Nathan Thornhill (6-2, 1.85 ERA) in the finale.
The Longhorns, ranked No. 11 nationally, are just 5-5 in their last 10 games after losing a series to Oklahoma State last weekend, but Mazey knows going against the top-ranked pitching staff in the Big 12 won’t be easy, and he believes Texas is a better hitting club than the .257 team average they’ve accumulated this season.
But the coach expects his Mountaineers, who are hitting .290 on the season and have a 3.38 team ERA, to play with confidence.
“We can’t get caught up with the name on the front of their jersey,” said Mazey. “We have to play against them just like we play against anybody. If we do that, I think we’ll have some success. But they’re a good team, and sometimes playing on the road takes some pressure off of them.”
WVU is playing for the postseason, trying to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1996. They currently hold a No. 26 RPI rating, and most forecast have the Mountaineers as a No. 2 seed for an NCAA regional.
But Mazey said the works not done yet.
“It will mean a lot if we do get in, but not that we’re expected to get in,” said Mazey. “We’ve got a lot to play for. That would be a proud moment for a lot of people if on the selection show they mention the Mountaineers’ name.”
A strong series against Texas, and the Mountaineers can start making travel plans.
— E-mail: chuffman
@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.
Hawley Field set to host one final baseball series
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