By Cam Huffman
West Virginia and Marshall need to play baseball every year. Period.
The 2,103 fans that filled the seats at Linda K. Epling Stadium Tuesday night proved that they want to see it, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t get it.
Fathers decked in gold and blue took their seats beside their daughters dressed in green. Husbands yelled “We are Marshall,” while wives countered with “Let’s go Mountaineers.” It was a perfect scene, and it’s a shame its been more than 15 years since it’s happened in a baseball park in West Virginia.
But the future of the series needs to be tweaked.
The first game this year came on a frigid night at Charleston’s Appalachian Power Park, and it came sandwiched between Big 12 series against Kansas State and Texas Tech for WVU.
Marshall, on the other hand, didn’t have a Conference USA series the weekend following the game. That meant the Herd was able to throw its ace, Aaron Blair, while the Mountaineers had to send a weeknight starter to the mound.
The weather kept the crowd small, and the inequitable matchup on the mound led to a lopsided 8-0 score.
The second game in Morgantown came off without a hitch. Both teams were facing conference series the next weekend, so it was a normal midweek game, with both throwing midweek starters. The weather on April 2 was a little better and the crowd in Morgantown was decent.
But the final Tuesday night in Beckley was anything but perfect.
The crowd was huge. The weather was beautiful and the game came down to the wire. Fans couldn’t have asked for anything better on the field.
But behind the scenes, the mood was a little different.
WVU and Marshall are both hitting the road for weekend series that begins on Thursday. The Mountaineers will be at Oklahoma State with a chance to win the Big 12 — with some help — while Marshall will be in Houston, Texas facing Rice and trying to lock up a spot in the C-USA tournament.
What that means is a brutal travel schedule for both teams.
WVU, in fact, left Beckley around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday night for the long bus ride to Morgantown. The Mountaineers’ wake-up call for a 7 a.m. flight in Pittsburgh, Pa., was 4 a.m. this morning.
That’s not the optimal schedule with the conference championship on the line, and it forced head coach Randy Mazey to leave a few of his top players — outfielder Bobby Boyd, catcher Alan Filauro, outfielder Jacob Rice and outfielder Brady Wilson — in the dugout or back in Morgantown to get some rest.
WVU only brought five pitchers on the bus to Beckley.
That’s not what fans want to see. They saw a great game anyway, but it wasn’t Marshall’s best against WVU’s best as it should have been.
Can you imagine the buzz that would have been created by a Blair vs. Harrison Musgrave matchup?
Playing a three-game series on a weekend would be optimal, but the schedules probably won’t allow it. A series in February or early March is just too risky because of the weather, and both teams begin conference play in the middle of March. They both have one free weekend after the conference schedule begins, but the chances of the break coming on the same weekend for both teams is slim.
So what’s the answer? I’m not exactly sure. But three things I know for sure.
1) The series must continue.
2) Changes have to be made.
3) Beckley deserves to be included.
Now its up for the guys that make the big bucks to come up with the answers.
— What are officials at both schools thinking about the future of the series? Pick up a copy of Thursday’s Register-Herald to find out what coaches and athletic officials are saying.