The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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May 6, 2014

Mountaineers, Hokies renew rivalry

West Virginia, Virginia Tech meet today at Princeton’s Hunnicutt Field

West Virginia closed out Hawley Field in fine fashion Sunday, picking up a series win against No. 11 Texas in front of a crowd of 2,237 that was the second-most ever to see a game at the Mountaineers’ baseball facility, which first opened in 1971.

Now the goal for WVU is to make a little more history.

At 26-17 overall and 9-8 in Big 12 play, the Mountaineers have risen to No. 21 in the RPI rankings and appear to be in a great position to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1996.

“As the games were unfolding this weekend, I’d walk down to coach third base and look around at the crowd that had gathered at the third base line and all the people standing on the bank,” said second-year head coach Randy Mazey. “I looked behind the plate, and all those stands were full. Down the right field line, all those stands were full. We were playing with Texas, had all the alumni there and were playing pretty well. That’s pretty much exactly what I had envisioned when I came here a couple years ago.”

Everything is going as planned for Mazey, who came to WVU from TCU, where he served as an assistant, but there’s still work left to do to end his second season the way he wants and continue the progression toward making WVU baseball a national contender.

Eight games remain on the regular season schedule, beginning with a unique matchup today as the Mountaineers battle old rival Virginia Tech at Hunnicutt Field in Princeton. The 6 p.m. contest at the home of the Princeton Rays, a Tampa Bay minor league affiliate, has already been announced as a sellout. Capacity of the ballpark, which was renovated in 1999, is listed as 1,700, but a crowd of 1,900 is expected to pack the stadium, which first opened its gates in 1988.

“We had a lot of fun last season traveling around the state to Charleston and Beckley and seeing Mountaineers all over the place,” said Mazey, looking back at his first season in a WVU uniform. “This is just one more opportunity to get out there and show people what Mountaineer baseball has become and how hard we play. We’re extremely excited to get down there and really looking forward to it.”

Virginia Tech is 19-27 overall and 8-19 in ACC play after breaking a 10-game losing streak with a 7-6 win over Georgia Tech on Sunday. They’re led at the plate by junior catcher Mark Zagunis, who’s hitting .332 with a team-best 39 runs scored. Junior infielder Brendon Hayden leads the team with 40 RBIs to go along with a .302 average.

WVU, which leads the Big 12 with a .293 team batting average, is paced by junior outfielder Bobby Boyd, who’s hitting .376 with 43 runs scored and 22 RBIs. Senior first baseman Ryan McBroom is hitting .357 with 42 RBIs and seven home runs. He was named the Varsity Sports Report Athlete of the Week by WVU on Monday after hitting .462 with two runs and two RBIs in the series win over the Longhorns.

The Mountaineers are expected to send senior right-hander Corey Walter to the mound to start today’s game. The Wheeling Park High School graduate has started two games this year and made 14 appearances. He’s 1-4 with a 4.88 ERA in 27 2-3 innings pitched.

“He’s had some experience,” said Mazey. “He’s a senior, and he pitched really well the last time out. He’s got a good arm, and he’s from the state of West Virginia. He’s excited to go out and represent it.”

Although WVU will officially be the home team tonight, there will certainly be plenty of orange and maroon in the stands as well. While the Mountaineers will have to travel more than 200 miles to arrive at the ballpark, the Hokies have a short 50-mile trip from Blacksburg.

“As long as you have a good crowd, you get motivation from that crowd being partial to your team or that crowd being partial to the other team,” said Mazey. “As long as there’s a good crowd, I anticipate it being a good game.”

WVU is 5-0 against Atlantic Coast Conference opponents this season with wins over Duke, UNC, Pitt (two) and Maryland. The Mountaineers will play two more games against ACC foes, today against the Hokies and a week from today at Maryland.

“Even if it’s not a great RPI game at the time, it’s still an ACC game, and when you get the ACC and Big 12 to play against each other, it’s always going to have a lot of hype surrounding it,” said Mazey.

Following today’s game, the Mountaineers, currently fourth in the Big 12 standings, will play a three-game series at Kansas Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Jayhawks, 12-9 in league play, are just ahead of WVU in the Big 12 race. WVU swept KU in a three-game series last season in front of record crowds at Linda K. Epling Stadium in Beckley.

— E-mail: and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.

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