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Mazey Bringing Baseball to Forefront of WVU Athletics

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MORGANTOWN -

It was an exciting draft weekend for West Virginia fans. With Geno Smith being all over the national networks and Tavon Austin taken in the first round, there were plenty of reasons for the fans to tune into what was happening at Radio City Hall.

That's over with now, though, and there's another WVU team that deserves to receive some attention. The Mountaineers happen to be playing some pretty good baseball.

Oliver Luck brought in Randy Mazey from TCU over the summer to coach the baseball team, and he's done a great job in his first season.

With a series sweep of Kansas over the weekend, West Virginia has improved to 27-18 overall, and 9-6 in the conference. That's good enough for a third-place tie in the Big 12, and they're just a half game back of second-place Kansas State.

A third-place spot in the conference standings isn't something that would normally turn many heads, but no one saw this coming from West Virginia.

Last season, the Mountaineers finished eleventh out of twelve teams in the Big East. They've finished under .500 two of the last three years, and they'd be making the move to the Big 12, which featured some pretty good baseball programs. That all added up to West Virginia being selected last in the preseason Big 12 poll.

Then, the season started with three losses in four games, and it looked like the preseason expectations would be fairly accurate. Yet, since then, WVU has figured something out, and has become a contender in the Big 12 late into April.

In fact, this coming week could be a huge one for the team. Oklahoma sits atop the conference, but West Virginia is just 1.5 games back. The two teams will meet for a three-game series this weekend, meaning West Virginia could jump over the Sooners in the standings. Oklahoma is also ranked 14th in the USA Today poll. That series will be played in Charleston.

Before they can worry about that, they'll have to take care of Pitt on Tuesday. That game will be a home game for the Mountaineers, where they are 12-1 this season. The Panthers are 32-10, but one of those losses came earlier in the season to West Virginia. Wins in those games could really give the Mountaineers a boost on their NCAA Tournament résumé. They've already risen to 71st in the RPI, but there's still room to improve, especially with some games remaining against teams ahead of them in those rankings.

After this week's games, the Mountaineers will have a series with TCU, one game against Marshall, then a series against Oklahoma State to end the regular season. The Horned Frogs are just 8-10 in the conference and under .500 overall, Marshall is just 16-26 overall, and Oklahoma State is 7-7 in Big 12 play. The Cowboys are 32-11 overall, but if WVU gets through this week, it could be in good shape to finish out the year.

It isn't unusual for WVU athletics to surprise people like this. There was the Elite Eight run in 2005 for basketball, then all of the BCS wins in football. This time around, it's the baseball team pleasantly surprising.

Now that the draft and spring practices are behind us, it's time that we took notice.

 

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