Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

May 23, 2013

WVU baseball turning heads

PRINCETON — The West Virginia University baseball team is in the midst of the Big 12 Conference Tournament, beginning play Thursday night in Oklahoma City. While most WVU alumni and fans were excited about the football and basketball teams moving to the conference last July, little fanfare was given to the baseball team in Morgantown except for the hiring of Randy Maxey, replacing long-time coach Greg Van Zant.

Maxey has helped lead the Mountaineers to a fourth-place finish in the conference and sophomore Harrison Musgrave was named Big 12 Pitcher of the Year.

Just miles from this week’s tornado in Moore, Okla., the Mountaineer baseball team pitched in and helped in any way they could in relief efforts and WVU athletic director Oliver Luck said that work showed the character of the team.

“We were fortunate in the sense that we had an opportunity to help. And the kids, I think instinctively wanted to help. The coaches encouraged them to try to help and it’s hard not to want to help if you see all the devastation and all the tragedy that has taken place out there,” Luck said.

“We think of them as baseball players. We think of them as college students, but at the end of the day they’re humans and you can tell they were all raised properly and were thinking of others before they think about themselves. I think every Mountaineer is very proud of what those young men have done and also what the coaches have encouraged them to do.”

On the field the Mountaineers have far exceeded expectations and Luck likes what he sees on the diamond.

“It has been very good I think it surprised a lot of people. One of the reasons I hired Randy (Maxey) is that he’s a pitching guy. I may not be an expert in baseball, but I do know that pitching is important and what he has done with Harrison Musgrave and (Dan) Dierdorf and all of our pitchers is really impressive. He’s done a marvelous job. I think he has snuck up on some people, which is always a good place to be.”

Baseball has been played at WVU since 1892 and only in from 1942-44, during World War II, did the school not field a team. The state legislature during the last session approved a plan whereby WVU and Monongalia County would receiving funding to build a baseball stadium just of I-79 in Morgantown. Luck talked about what stage the project is currently in.

“Where it is right now is in our minds,” Luck explained. We actually had a session (Tuesday) with an architect and an engineer, a so-called visioning session where we had all the parties in the room at the football stadium. The County officials were there, a whole bunch of WVU officials, local baseball folks to talk about what do we want in this building. How many batting cages? How many locker rooms? How many restrooms? How many seats? How many of this and how many of that to really figure out what we need to build.”

Luck envisions a stadium of around 3,000 to 3,500 seats. WVU has already invited Fairmont State to play its home games at the ballpark and there is talk of a team from the Class A New York-Penn League being a tenant from June through the end of August.

Due to the inadequacies at the on-campus Hawley Field, WVU has played its Big 12 home games this season in Charleston and Beckley to very large and receptive crowds.

“Over the last few weeks we’ve had I think seven of the eight largest crowds in the history of the program,” Luck said. “There is clearly interest and I think if we continue to put a competitive team out there I think we can play games not just in Morgantown. Of course we’ve played in Beckley, played in Charleston and I’d love to be able to get a game down here in the future. I think that’s good for us, it’s good for the program. People get excited. We are the state’s flagship school. We want to represent West Virginia, not just North-Central West Virginia, but both panhandles and the southern coalfields up to the very border of Virginia.

West Virginia last played in the Two Virginias several years ago at Bowen Field against Stony Brook.

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