WVU out to prove it can swing in Big 12 baseball
West Virginia senior outfielder Brady Wilson said the Mountaineers were immediately drawn to new baseball coach Randy Mazey.
“He keeps telling us we can be a good team and have a successful season, especially in the Big 12,” said Wilson, who entered this weekend's games with a .435 batting average, second on the team. “Everyone has a more positive attitude toward the game of baseball. In the past, there wasn't a lot of leadership and we didn't have a lot of guys that played together as a team. This year, we even have a new locker room. We used to have to dress for games in our cars in the parking lot.”
Last year, in its final season in the Big East, WVU finished 23-32 overall and 9-18 in league play while batting .264 with a 6.04 ERA.
Enter Mazey, a native of Johnstown who spent the previous six seasons as a TCU assistant. During that span, TCU won six regular season and three Mountain West tournament titles. A first-year member of the Big 12 along with the Mountaineers, TCU advanced to the NCAA Regional in each of Mazey's six seasons, along with three NCAA Super Regionals and one College World Series. Mazey also has head coaching experience at East Carolina and Charleston State.
Mazey's father, Forrest, was a longtime fixture in the local Johnstown baseball scene. He died Monday from cancer, passing along a legacy to his son that is resonating with his new team.
Mazey's resume gives the Mountaineers confidence as they prepare to enter a traditionally-strong baseball conference featuring Oklahoma and Texas, ranked No. 10 and No. 22, respectively, in one national poll, and showcasing four players named to USA Baseball's preseason Golden Spikes Award Watch List.
WVU was picked to finish last in the Big 12 preseason poll in a vote by league coaches.
“We're not expected to amount to anything this year. All the traveling and picked to finish last in the Big 12. I want us to be remembered as the team that had everything go against them and prove everybody wrong,” Wilson said.
The Mountaineers' 3-5 start after the first week of the season was highlighted by a 9-2 win at Wake Forest. WVU opens conference play at Kansas State on March 15.
“Our coaches really believe in us and believe that we can win,” said junior reliever Pascal Paul, who transferred from Iowa Western Community College. “That goes a long way with the players. It had a major impact on me.”
So did finally getting a locker room. It was a simple act by Mazey, but it went a long way with his players.
“Coach Mazey did a great job to change things from the past,” Wilson said. “For him to get us a locker room, we just got a TV in there. To have your coach really show he cares about the program makes you feel good.”
Wilson's batting average has soared under the coaching change. While it's early in the season, he's batting .164 points higher than his .271 average in 2012. He's also becoming a more daring runner as WVU attempts to generate offense to keep pace in the Big 12.
“Coach Mazey loves being aggressive,” said Wilson, who stole 10 bases last year. “In the past, I didn't really get the chance to steal many bases; it was more situational. This year, when certain guys get on base that can run, we're going to hit and run, we're going to mess with pitchers.”