MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – In 2013, many critics did not see the consistent upward trend of West Virginia baseball on the horizon.
In its 11th season in the Big 12, West Virginia produced its best season of baseball since joining the conference. Since their arrival, the Mountaineers appeared in a Big 12 Championship game, won a Big 12 regular-season title, and made three NCAA Regional appearances.
To say it was predictable would be a stretch.
“Everybody in our circle said, ‘Football will be fine. Coach Huggins will be fine with basketball, they got it going, but poor baseball. What’s going to happen to the baseball program?'” head coach Randy Mazey said. “And that was just [about] 10 years ago.”
There were significant doubts surrounding the program for a variety of reasons, with most regarding the physical location of campus. WVU is at a geographical disadvantage in two ways: the nearest Big 12 school (Iowa State) is over 850 miles away, and Morgantown is not as competitive of a spring baseball climate as some of its Big 12 competitors in warmer states.
Hawley Field and its 1,500-seat capacity was also not adequate enough to host Big 12 games long-term, so WVU played a large chunk of their home series in Charleston and Beckley to begin Mazey’s tenure.
Throw in the fact that the program hadn’t made an NCAA Tournament appearance since 1996, and it was clear Mazey had his work cut out for him.
He took over as head of the program for WVU’s first Big 12 season in 2013. After three-straight losing seasons preceding his arrival, he led the Mountaineers to a 33-26 record and a third-place finish in the Big 12. WVU has had a winning record in nine of Mazey’s 11 seasons in Morgantown.
“We’ve been ranked in the top-25 now in parts of seven consecutive seasons. For the outlier in the Big 12, with all of our challenges geographically and weather-wise and travel-wise, for us being able to accomplish everything we have over the last 10 years is nothing but a tribute to the coaches I’ve had out there assembling this team.”
The new stadium arrived for the 2015 season, and two years later, the Mountaineers appeared in their first Regional of the 21st century. In 2019, Monongalia County Ballpark hosted its first Regional, which was also the first time WVU hosted a baseball Regional since 1955.
“As a coach you get impatient with yourself, you want it to happen right away. I think if you look back on the last 10 years, it’s probably happened how it should’ve. You can’t do that overnight.”
A pair of Big 12 Coach of the Year Awards were a byproduct of Mazey’s success, but a few boxes remain unchecked. WVU is still looking to win its first Regional, and by extension, a Super Regional and College World Series appearance. At this rate, they are reasonable goals.
“The last 10 years have been really, really good to us,” Mazey said. “I think the next 10 years can even be better.”