Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

May 6, 2014

No time to celebate wins over Texas, WVU to face Virginia Tech

PRINCETON — The West Virginia baseball team hasn't had much time to celebrate its series win last weekend over Texas in what will be the final games to be played at Hawley Field in Morgantown.

Nope, the schedule moves on, with the Mountaineers traveling to Princeton today to face Virginia Tech at a sold-out Hunnicutt Field. The first pitch is slated for 6 p.m., with gates opening at 4:30.

Traveling the state to play baseball games has become part of the riitual for West Virginia second year head coach Randy Mazey, who is looking forward to visiting the southern edge of the state.

"We had a lot of fun last season traveling around the state to Charleston and Beckley and seeing Mountaineers all over the place," Mazey said. "It is just one more opportunity for us to get out there and show people what Mountaineer baseball has become and how hard we play.

"We are extremely excited to get down there, we are really looking forward to it."

West Virginia (26-17) has followed up a seven-game losing skid with a 10-2 run, including a pair of wins over No. 11 Texas over the weekend. Meanwhile, the Hokies (19-27) snapped a 10-game losing skid by winning at Georgia Tech on Sunday.

Despite being a mid-week game and not part of the Big 12 schedule, Mazey doesn't plan to make any changes to his usual starting lineup.

Sophomore center fielder Bobby Boyd (.376, 68 hits, 43 runs, 15 stolen bases) has led the Mountaineers, along with senior first baseman Ryan McBroom (.357, 7 home runs, 42 RBIs, 10 doubles) and junior second baseman Billy Fleming (.352, 26 runs, 25 RBI).

Others expected to start are left fielder Jacob Rice (.292, 16 walks, 13 stolen bases), shortstop Taylor Munden (.282, 14 doubles), third baseman Michael Constan-tini (.265), catcher Cam O'Brien (.256) and designed hitter Jackson Cramer (.242, 15 walks).

Right fielder Brad Johnson (.396) has recently seen his playing time increase, especially during the 'Eers' most recent seven-game win streak.

That run has pushed the Mountaineers toward the top 20 in the NCAA's Rating Percentage Index, which should help West Virginia in its hunt for a postseason berth.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it man," said Mazey, whose Mountaineers have a .293 team batting average and a 3.33 ERA. "We are going to go with the same crowd of characters."

Pitching for the Mountaineers will be 6-foot-3 right-hander Cory Walter. A native West Virginian from Wheeling, Walter is 1-4 this season with four saves and a 4.88 ERA in 14 appearances, which includes two starts, earning the win against Marshall on April 23.

Walter leads the Mountaineers with four saves, but if a late-inning pitcher is needed tonight, West Virginia has also picked two saves each from weekend starter Sean Carley and Pascal Paul.

"Cory is a guy who has some experience, he is a senior, he pitched really well the last time out," Mazey said. "We moved him from being a starter last year to the bullpen and got (him) back to being a starter.

"He has a good arm, he is a good kid. He is from the state of West Virginia so he will be excited to get out there and represent tomorrow night."

Virginia Tech leads the series with West Virginia 52-31-1, having won the last meeting in 2012 in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

While the West Virginia and Virginia Tech rivalry is as fierce as any, no matter what the sport, Mazey only has four players from the Mountain State so he isn't so sure that will resonate with his players.

"I don't think our kids know much about this rivalry," Mazey said. "We don't have too many West Virginia guys on the team. For a lot of them is going to be a game against a good team with a good crowd."

What will have an effect is the large sellout audience of 1,900 that is expected to fill Hunnicutt Field, the summer time home for the Princeton Rays of the Appalachian League.

"The way the kids are, as long you have got a good crowd you get motivation from the crowd partial to your team, but you also get motivation when the crowd is partial to the other team," Mazey said. "As long as there is a good crowd _ I understand it is sold out _ then I forsee it being a really good game."

Ironically, it will be a West Virginia home game, but it will be played about an hour from Blacksburg. Not a problem for these Mountaineers, who have grown used to traveling since Morgantown usually isn't the best climate for baseball.

"You can prepare the kids for anything," said Mazey, who has submitted a proposal based partly on weather concerns to the NCAA to play college baseball in late spring and throughout the summer, with the College World Series ending in early August right before school starts again. "We prepare them for all the travel that we go through and as long as you are preparing them for it then they will be ready for it so this really isn't anything new to us."

These clubs have met in Mercer County in the past, playing seven games at Bowen Field in Bluefield in 1994 and 1980-83, with the Hokies holding a 6-1 advantage.

West Virginia Director of Athletics Oliver Luck traveled to Princeton last Oct. 8 to announce the creation of what will unfold tonight.

Could it happen again in the future? It might, but Mazey acknowledges the Mountaineers are excited about using their new stadium that will be ready for the 2015 season.

"We are probably going to try and use our brand new multi-million dollar facility as much as we possibly can," Mazey said. "We will have to see what the future holds on that one, but if we have got a home game and the people of Morgantown really support us locally here and if we are going to attract great crowds then we are going to spend the majority of our time at home probably."

However, if another road trip to another part of West Virginia appears on the schedule, the Mountaineers certainly won't mind loading up the bus.

"If there is ever an opportunity that arises for me to get out and see a different part of the state and meet WVU fans from all over," Mazey said, "I would be more than happy to entertain it."

West Virginia will concludes its regular season with Big 12 road series the next two weekends at Kansas and Texas Tech, along with a mid-week game at Maryland.

The Big 12 tournament is slated for May 21-25 in Oklahoma City, Okla.

Tonight's game will be video streamed on WVUsports.com and radio coverage will be provided through selected affiliates with the IMG College sports network.

— Contact Brian Woodson at bwoodson@bdtonline.com or on Twitter @bdtwoodson.

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