By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald
West Virginia University’s baseball team certainly was impressive in Tuesday’s 7-6 loss against old rival Pitt at Hawley Field.
Despite giving up six runs, including a grand slam homer in the fourth inning, the Mountaineers never gave up. Slowly but steadily they battled back to within one run of the nationally No. 17th-ranked Panthers (33-10).
In his first season as West Virginia’s head coach, Randy Mazey appears to have put together a team that performs very well as a smooth unit and can win games.
With a record Hawley Field turnout of 2,535 fans and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on hand, coach Mazey called the team’s final game of 2013 in Morgantown perhaps “the biggest day in the history of West Virginia baseball.”
The governor was in town to sign into law the TIF Bill, authorizing construction of a new ball park for use by WVU and other teams. It’s projected to cost $16.3 million and be “publicly owned.”
West Virginia, which has won 18 of its last 24 games, saw a five-game winning streak snapped. So WVU and Pitt wound up splitting the season’s series. West Virginia had won the earlier contest at Pittsburgh.
But Mazey was upbeat, despite the narrow defeat. So were his players as they look ahead to this weekend’s three-game series against Oklahoma in Charleston starting today.
The 10th-ranked Sooners (33-12, 10-5 Big Twelve) are No. 1 in the conference standings at this time, so every game is vastly important.
The Mountaineers are 27-19 overall and share third place in the conference with a 9-6 log. Six of their losses were by one run each. What’s more, the Mountaineers are tied with Kansas State for third place in the Big 12 standings. That’s not bad for a West Virginia baseball club which was selected dead last in the preseason poll.
Mazey, who’s 46 and a native of Johnstown, Pa., took over the WVU reigns from Greg Van Zant this year. He had been an assistant coach at Texas Christian from 2006-12.
Mazey found no fault with his team’s effort against the Panthers and is eagerly looking ahead to Oklahoma and resuming Big 12 play.
“I am leaving this game (Pitt) feeling better about our team than I did when the game started,” the new coach stated. “I’m not down about this loss at all.
“We really didn’t do anything to lose the game. Pitt deserved it. .... They just earned that (fourth) inning. That inning was the whole game.”
West Virginia, which finished with a 7-1 mark at Hawley Field this year, has played all Big 12 at home games in Charleston and Beckley.