WVU Gets First NCAA Bid Since 1996 - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

WVU Gets First NCAA Bid Since 1996

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Brandon White and the Mountaineers make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1996. (PHOTO: Geoff Coyle) Brandon White and the Mountaineers make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1996. (PHOTO: Geoff Coyle)
MORGANTOWN -

For the first time since 1996, the West Virginia University baseball team is packing its bags for a trip to an NCAA Regional.

The field of 64 was unveiled Monday afternoon and the Mountaineers learned that they will be competing in the Winston-Salem Regional as the No. 2 seed along with Wake Forest, Maryland and UMBC. West Virginia will meet Maryland Friday at 2 p.m.

The Mountaineers faced the Terrapins in the regular season, with Maryland securing a 7-6 win at home.

For a young team that features only two seniors, many WVU players were not even alive the last time the program continued playing beyond its conference tournament. Nineteen seasons worth of Mountaineers have come through Morgantown without getting a taste of an NCAA regional.

“It’s awesome,” WVU redshirt sophomore Andrew Zitel said of making the tournament. “There have been a lot of great players to come through here and they didn’t get the chance to do what we’re doing right now. To be on the team and not really play a lot, it doesn’t matter. I’m part of a special group. What we’re doing right now hasn’t been done here in a couple decades, so it’s really special to walk in the clubhouse and sit down in your locker and soak it all in. I just think, wow, I’m here, we’re doing big things and the season’s not over by far.”

West Virginia went 2-2 over the past week in Oklahoma City, dropping from the Big 12 tournament after suffering two losses to Oklahoma State, the eventual champion. The Mountaineers enter this weekend’s action with a 34-24 record after finishing the regular season in fourth place in college baseball’s top conference.

A year ago, they were traveling home from a Big 12 championship loss, watching the NCAA selection show from their seats on a plane, only to learn that they had been left out. That feeling stuck with the players and coaches all through the offseason and through 58 games to this point in 2017.

“We’ve said all along that our saying this year was going to be, ‘We’re on a mission,’” Randy Mazey said. “That mission was to prove to everybody that we belong in the postseason and it hasn’t been easy. This season has been the biggest grind of any that we’ve had with injuries and adversity and for us to be in the position we’re in right now, there’s a lot of effort on a lot of people’s parts that go into the success that we’ve had so far.”

For the two seniors who recognize the month of June will be the end of their time with the Mountaineers, their first NCAA tournament game will represent the accumulation of the work they’ve devoted to West Virginia since joining the program.

“I think our goal has always been working toward leaving this program in a better place than when we found it. We came in here, we were new to the Big 12, and our whole goal has been to build and try to start something that can be withstood throughout time. Coach Mazey and Coach [Steve] Sabins and Coach [Derek] Matlock gave us an excellent opportunity to do that and we just want to give back by being a part of starting something really cool.”

The regional begins on Friday and runs through Monday as a double elimination tournament.

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