Mazey: WVU Has Something To Prove
MORGANTOWN, W.Va — The Weather Channel was reporting snow showers on Sunday.
What better time to realize that West Virginia University baseball season is almost upon us and coach Randy Mazey can’t wait to get started? The opener is the day after Valentine’s Day against Kennesaw State in Georgia.
Why should Mazey be anxious, everything’s the way he likes it?
The Big 12 preseason poll picked his Mountaineers to finish sixth.
“That’s not too good,” he said, almost with one of those Casey Stengel winks. “That’s not very good for everyone else but it’s good for us. We know we’re better than that. We have a chip on our shoulder now and something to prove. Any time you have a bunch of kids with something to prove, that can be dangerous for the other guys.
“I wish we’d been picked ninth, personally. But we’re sixth and I think that’s really going to help us.”
First or last, the picks mean nothing once they start throwing curve balls and sliders.
Ask Bob Huggins, who was picked to finish third this year in basketball.
It’s true, it’s a tough league, this Big 12 that has only nine teams, with TCU and Texas and Texas Tech and Oklahoma State always prominent nationally, but Mazey isn’t worrying about that.
“We just have to do what we do,” he said. “We have a history of playing better in the Big 12 than outside of it. Our kids look at the schedule and see Texas and TCU and Oklahoma and they get pretty fired up for those games.
“I don’t know that the kids from Texas and TCU and Oklahoma see West Virginia on the schedule and get near as fired up as we do. That helps us too. I’m not worried about our kids. The experience of this team means we won’t be in awe of anyone. We know we can beat anyone on our schedule.”
Mazey goes into the season with an interesting mix on his team.
“The interesting thing about this team is I think we can win a variety of ways. If our power does not show up, we can win with speed,” he said. “If the speed doesn’t show up, the power will. We’re pretty multi-dimensional.”
They have versatility and, maybe more important, they have experience.
“Experience is the best teacher. Most of our guys played for me since their freshman year,” said Mazey, who now is entering his seventh season, which screams out just how fast time flies. “They have played in every Big 12 stadium. They aren’t going to see anything they haven’t seen before and that has calming effect on the rest of the team. Those guys don’t get too out of control with their emotions.”
As always in baseball there were key losses, some before their time because of the baseball draft. Gone from a year ago are the team’s top hitter in Kyle Gray, the glue that held the infield together, Jimmy Galusky, star pitcher Michael Grove, who despite missing last year with arm surgery was a second-round pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and pitchers Shane Ennis, who was 4-3 with 3.22 ERA, B.J. Myers, a starter/reliever and Isaiah Kearns, who came on strongly as the year wore on.
But there are also interesting returnees, beginning with outfielder Darius Hill, pitcher Alek Manoah, reliever Sam Kessler, catcher Ivan Gonzalez and center fielder Brandon White.
Replacing Galusky is the biggest question.
“It looks like we will have a freshman shortstop, but we have plenty of other guys there. It will cause us some sleepless nights but this is the best recruiting class since we’ve been here. The help we need will be given by some really good players.”
At second base, replacing Kyle Gray, will be Tyler Doanes.
“He’s a great communicator,” Mazey said. “He has great leadership ability.”
He will help the shortstop.
The important thing with Gonzalez back catching and the double-play combination in place and Brandon White with his defense in center field makes WVU strong up the middle defensively.
“We have really stressed our defense in the infield,” Mazey said. “I like where we are. The freshman shortstop is a really talented good and Doanes is as good a second baseman as you can find.”
There also is the wild card in Trey Lowe III, the football quarterback who is playing both sports and redshirted last year in each. He will be needed in spring football by new coach Neal Brown to learn the system and give a different look to what either Austin Kendall or Jack Allison brings to the position.
“We talked about it with coach Brown. He’s such a nice guy and he’s worried about how I feel about it and I’m worried about how feels about it. Poor Trey is caught in the middle. I want Trey to be able to compete for the quarterback job.
“It is yet to be determined. He is going get some opportunities to get some at bats early and we’ll see how he does.”