MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Even before West Virginia’s 2022 baseball season started, head coach Randy Mazey had a pretty good outlook on how his team would have to play in order to be successful. There was the running, aggressive style on the bases and the attacking bunt game that have often been at the foundation of his success. With few returning starting pitchers of the ace variety, there was also the expectation that many hurlers would have to take smaller bites out of the available innings, making five or six pitcher appearances in a game common.
Put that all together, and there were clearly many roles available for players on the 2022 edition of the Mountaineers. Some were larger than others, but it was clear that WVU wouldn’t be able to rely on just a few position players or a couple of dominating arms if it wanted to compete for a spot in the NCAAs.
There might not be a better example of the type of player the Mountaineers needed in those sorts of roles this year than Kevin Dowdell. The junior college transfer hasn’t seen a great deal of time on the field, but has played in 17 games, getting 15 at-bats, serving as a pinch runner and pitching 4.1 innings in nine appearances as a situational reliever. None of those were as big as his latest trip to the batter’s box, though, as he blasted a ninth-inning, pinch hit home run deep over the WVU bullpen in right field to tie Charleston at 2-2 on Wednesday night, fueling momentum for an eventual 3-2 win.
“I just tried to stay calm and keep the heart rate down,” Dowdell said of the eight pitch at-bat, in which he fell behind early in the count then fouled off a couple before squaring up Cole Peschl’s offering in epic fashion. “On the first two I was just trying to get my timing right, and once I did that and after the foul ball I pulled, I knew I was locked in on him and just had to make sure I was on time with the next fastball.”
The Montevallo, Alabama, native has previous experience at Wallace State and Calhoun Community Colleges, playing a season at each with similar double duty on the mound and at the plate. He’s put that experience, backed by his approach to the game, to good use for the Mountaineers this year.
“There are some things we’ve been working on in the cage, and I was happy it came through,” he said of his game-tying bomb. “I had a clue I would come in to hit, and I’m going to continue to do whatever I can to help our team win.”
In addition to the home run, Dowdell has also scored the winning run twice this year, once dashing home on a sacrifice bunt against Campbell and another strolling to the plate on a walk-off bases-loaded walk against Baylor. Staying ready to produce whether he’s pinch-hitting, pitching or pinch running is something he is conscious of.
“I like to feed balls to everyone coming in, high five everybody and just stay mentally ready. That’s helped me be able to stay in the game,” he related. “I like to make sure everybody is having fun and staying in the game, and keeping the excitement level up in the dugout.”
Perched on the steps at the far end of the home dugout, Dowdell does all of that, but he also doesn’t miss much on the field. Watching opposing pitchers, talking to teammates after at-bats, he makes sure he is as prepared as possible for when the call comes. In doing so, he’s been one of the many players who have give WVU the chance to meet Mazey’s preseason prediction.