MORGANTOWN, W.Va.– Despite coming up short of their goal of winning a National Championship, the 2017 baseball season was highly successful and one to be proud of for West Virginia University.
For years the Mountaineer baseball team has played second fiddle to the football and basketball programs in terms of popularity. And their success had left much to be desired.
In June of 2012, that all changed when WVU announced Randy Mazey as its 19th baseball coach.
Since then the program has improved each year and the team’s popularity has grown.
But the 2017 Mountaineers were something special.
For the first time in 21 years, WVU participated in the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship and it was the first time ever that the Mountaineers got in on an at large bid.
Sunday’s game against Wake Forest marked the 62nd game of the season, a new program record.
After just missing the tournament last season, WVU set out from day one to prove they belonged and they did just that.
The Mountaineers finished fourth in the Big 12, the top RPI conference in the country.
Last season early losses to mediocre teams hurt the Mountaineers when selection time rolled around. However, this season WVU finished above .500 against ranked teams with clutch wins against the defending champs, Coastal Carolina, TCU, Texas Tech and Baylor.
“This team will probably go down in history maybe as one of the best ever for what we accomplished this year,” head coach Randy Mazey said. “I think our guys showed a lot of heart, a lot of tenacity and there are Mountaineer fans everywhere super proud of our team. We made a lot of Mountaineer baseball fans that weren’t Mountaineer baseball fans prior to this year. This is a statement about our program, where it’s going and the direction it’s headed. We’ve got us a baseball program that we can be super proud of. We have a great facility, great administration and great fan support. This is not the end. This is the beginning of a great baseball program.
Lets not forget the adversity this team faced. Marques Inman went down early on with a season-ending injury. In a freak warm-up accident Conner Dotson broke his arm. Then weeks later another weekend started went down when Michael Grove suffered an injury to his throwing arm.
“We lost two of our best pitchers and the fact that we had other guys step up and replace them to get us to where we are right now is pretty incredible,” first baseman Jackson Cramer said. “At the time we didn’t expect that. It was good to see how that played out over time. It was just fun to watch that happen.”
During their time of need, the Mountaineers had several freshman step up. Isaiah Kearns turned it on down the stretch. Kade Strowd had several good outings, including a much-needed one in the Big 12 Championship. Alek Manoah embraced his many roles as the season progressed.
Sparingly used pitchers like Cody Wood and Shane Ennis were even key contributors down the final weeks of the season.
“I can’t be more proud of the guys that came in not expecting to do much and were put into really big situations and came in and preformed and put us in positions to win a lot of games,” relief pitcher Jackson Sigman said.
However, WVU’s lack of arms hurt the team in the post season.
Even though the season ended before Omaha, the Mountaineers’ baseball program took gigantic strides. It was a roster full of talented and gritty athletes who are full of heart.
With only two seasons, Cramer and Sigman, on the roster and Mazey at the helm, one thing is for certain, WVU baseball has made its mark on the collegiate baseball map.
Cover Photo Credit: Jeff Ruff, BGS