By Cam Huffman
Just weeks away from the start of the college baseball season, West Virginia University’s first baseball schedule under new head coach Randy Mazey is still mostly a mystery. Click on the link for the schedule on the school’s official athletic website, and the only thing that comes up is a message that reads, “2013 schedule has not been posted.”
Other Big 12 baseball schedules, though, have been released, including Kansas’, which includes one interesting April series.
A three-game set at West Virginia April 26-28 lists the location as Beckley, W.Va.
WVU officials, who expect the schedule to be released sometime in the next few days, did confirm Thursday that the series between the Mountaineers and the Jayhawks will be played at Beckley’s Linda K. Epling Stadium.
The first game, according to the Kansas schedule, will be played on Friday, April 26, at 6:30 p.m. Game 2 will be Saturday, April 27, at 4 p.m., and the final game will take place on Sunday, April 28, at 1 p.m.
“We’ve got them there for a three-game series Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” said stadium owner Doug Epling, who said he signed the contract to make the series official last week. “To be able to land a Big 12 series here, we were really pleased.
“We built this field for the community, and it’s filled from February through August with youth baseball and everything else. So we had to clear out dates. But we were willing to do that, because we think it will be a good attraction for the community. Hopefully they’ll come out and support it.”
WVU will be entering a new era when it comes to baseball this season, playing for the first time in the ultra-competitive Big 12 and with Mazey leading the way.
The new Mountaineer coach was the head coach at East Carolina from 2004 through 2006 and at Charleston Southern from 1994 through 1996. He spent the last six seasons as an assistant at TCU, the last three as associate head coach.
WVU finished 23-32 last year, the final season in the Big East and last under longtime head coach Greg Van Zant.
The Mountaineers return 20 letterwinners from last season, including Bobby Boyd, who led the team with a .321 average, drove in 20 runs and stole 23 bases. Ryan McBroom is also back after batting .302 with a team-best 41 RBIs last season.
Kansas is coming off a 24-34 finish in 2012, which included a 7-16 mark and a seventh-place finish in the Big 12. The Jayhawks have won four conference titles, the last in 2006, and last made the NCAA Regional round in 2009. They return seven starters and nine pitchers from last year’s team, including junior right-hander Frank Duncan, a second-team All-Big 12 pick who became the fifth Kansas pitcher to record 100 strikeouts in a season.
Head coach Ritch Price will begin his 11th season at KU.
The April series won’t be the only time the Mountaineers — who are playing the majority of their games this season at Charleston’s Appalachian Power Park, and hoping to have a new stadium opened in time for the 2014 season — will play in Beckley.
WVU previously announced it will battle state rival Marshall on May 14 at Epling Stadium. It will be part of a three-game series with the Herd, which will also include games at WVU’s Hawley Field and Appalachian Power Park. WVU and Marshall have not played since 2008.
“The people that have talked to me about the WVU-Marshall game have been very excited about it,” said Epling, who also owns and operates the West Virginia Miners, who won the Prospect League title this past summer. “Marshall and West Virginia have big bases in this area, and I think it should be a great game that will mean a lot to both teams.”
Epling said he’s hopeful this year’s games in Beckley won’t be a one-shot deal. He’s planning to try to get the Mountaineers back to Beckley on a yearly basis.
Marshall is also scheduled to play a Conference USA series against East Carolina at Epling Stadium this spring.