Celebration to Preparation for WVU Baseball
By Kevin Kinder
Although there was no doubt West Virginia was going to get in to this year’s NCAA Baseball Tournament, there was still an outpouring of emotion when the Mountaineers popped up on the selection show screen on Monday. Part of that was just the joy of being picked, but much more came as a celebration of the year of hard work, determination and focus that went into bridging the gap from last year’s oh-so-close miss to this year’s lock selection.
If that year-long grind was tough, though, the intervening days between Monday and Friday might be even more challenging. That’s the gap, now almost over, where the Mountaineers had to put the celebration aside and focus on getting back to baseball on the field.
In a way, it’s almost not fair. WVU should have gotten more time to enjoy the culmination of that long process, but of course that’s not possible. It’s just the way things work, and even though the Mountaineers erased a 21-year gap in NCAA appearances, they didn’t have a great deal of time to cut loose.
Senior first baseman Jackson Cramer was typically laconic.
“Monday after the Big 12 Tournament was kind of a feel-good day to see where we are playing baseball once the tournament was over. On that day, I guess that’s when it hit us to see where we are playing in the postseason. Come Tuesday, we had to get back to practicing to get ready for these games.”
Fellow senior Jackson Sigman was a bit more expansive, but echoed the same theme.
“Coach [Randy] Mazey told us that we would get to the tournament [after narrow misses] and we just needed to get the right pieces of the puzzle in place and have things go our way. We’ve been working all year. Once you’ve reached this moment, it means a lot. You have to win three, maybe four games to move on. We’ve been working hard all this week to be in a position to win three or four games. I just worked out harder than ever before and in the end, we made it.”
“I thought we would make it the past two years,” Cramer added. “I guess it was that feeling of finally being able to get here after not being able to make it in the past couple of years. I knew we would get here once the season started. In the past, we would just get too close and you can’t describe it so that motivates us every day to get here and I believed we could get here from the get go.”
That sense of achievement is tough to put aside. In a way, WVU is a bit more aligned with the participants that won lower-level leagues. Many of those teams are just happy to be here — and that’s something that many first-time participants can run afoul of. The achievement was great, but can the switch be turned back to focus on play on the field? For WVU to get out of what looks to be a very competitive regional, it will have to be flipped firmly to the “on” position.
Of course, the Mountaineers aren’t in as the winners of a low D1 league. There’s no doubt they belong. Still, the sense of achievement on getting over the selection hump is so great that it might be tough to get back into grind mode for the weekend. That’s what Mazey is looking for, and that was the focus as the team wen through practices getting ready for Friday afternoon’s opener against Maryland.
“It’s really nice to get in after several years of frustration and feel that you’re getting in or not getting in and get rewarded,” he said. “The hard job as coaches is exciting these kids and it’s something those guys will never forget as they enter the tournament. I’m very happy for them that they’ll get a chance to see what NCAA Tournament baseball is all about.”