Mountaineers open with Oklahoma State in Big 12 tourney first round

OKLAHOMA CITY — For the last few seasons, this has been WVU’s time of the year. Regardless of what they looked like in the regular season, when the Mountaineers reached the conference tournament, in Oklahoma City, they seemed to find another level to hit.

In the last two seasons, WVU reached the semifinal round. That includes making a run to the title game in 2016.

Since the tourney moved to Oklahoma City, in 2016, the Mountaineers are 6-3, with a 2-0 record against top-seeded teams and a 5-1 mark against teams seeded in the top five.

WVU will need that kind of history as it heads into the 2018 championship.

“You know, the first time you come to a place like this and you get in awe of your surroundings, it affects you a little bit, but most of our team has played here at least once, a lot of them twice, so I don’t think we’re intimidated by the atmosphere at all,” WVU coach Mazey said. “I think we like this atmosphere, and I think the people of Oklahoma City have taken a liking to us since we’ve been in the Big 12. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

The seventh-seeded Mountaineers (27-25, 9-15 Big 12) tip off the tournament at 5 p.m., when they face No. 2 seed Oklahoma State (29-22-1, 16-8 Big 12), at the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. The rest of their bracket includes No. 3 Texas Tech and No. 6 TCU.

In their three regular-season games against each other this season, WVU went 1-2. The win was a 10-7 affair, at home.

But led by all-Big 12 selection Kyle Gray, the Mountaineers believe they are a different team than the one that faced the Cowboys last month.

“I think we’re playing pretty good,” Mazey said. “I think we’ve figured some pitching things out, and we’re swinging the bats pretty well. I think we’re playing as good right now as we have all year.”

According to Mazey, the Mountaineers will need their pitching rotation to be on its game in order to slow down the Pokes.

“We’ve been juggling roles of pitchers the entire season, really,” Mazey said. “We went into the Baylor series last weekend with a whole different plan, and it seemed to work pretty well. The guys bought into it and the results were a little bit better, so I think we’re going to stick with it.”

The Mountaineers have only to look across the field at the Cowboys for inspiration on what they can accomplish. Last season,  the eighth-seeded Pokes came out of nowhere to win the tourney championship. That run included two victories against the Mountaineers.

“The key is just relax and play and do what you do,” Mazey said. “These tournaments where you play a lot of games in a short period of time, it turns into an offensive show, you know, if you can get to day three, four and five, and that’s been to our advantage since we’ve been down here. And we’ve got a pretty offensive team this year, so if we can get through the first couple of days, then we’ve got a chance to get on a roll and get some momentum.”

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