College baseball battle was waged in Omaha, Neb. Sunday.
We do not blame you for caring so little about the College World Series. This is hardly a baseball city.
In 20-some years here, there have been calls taken for getting more golf scores in the paper. We’ve fielded complaints on printing more agate for high school track and tennis.
We get all kinds of heck if we miss a middle school seventh-grade girls’ game in the roundup.
Not once has a lack of daily college baseball scores or a lack of attention toward college baseball ever been an issue.
And while the majority of our sports attention is now focused on Thursday’s NBA Draft and where former WVU standout Jevon Carter may wind up, you almost wonder if Randy Mazey isn’t months — instead of years — from building a special baseball program with the Mountaineers.
There is proof of that to be found at the CWS in Omaha, where both Texas and Texas Tech have advanced to the Elite Eight — which is a double-elimination round between two four-team fields that will send one team from each field to the finals.
If either Texas or Texas Tech can slip past defending national champ Florida, the Red Raiders or Longhorns just might be playing for a national championship.
That would be the same Texas team that visited Monongalia County Ballpark earlier this season and lost two-out-three to the Mountaineers.
That would be the same Texas Tech team that took two-out-of-three from WVU this season, but the Mountaineers’ one win was an impressive 1-0 shutout over the Big 12’s highest-scoring team.
WVU also knocked off the Red Raiders, 12-4, during the Big 12 tournament.
“We feel like we’re as good as anybody in this conference,” Mazey said after WVU was eliminated in the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament by TCU. “You can go back and pick a game or two out of the season that could’ve gone either way, and all of a sudden, you’re sitting at 32-33 wins with an RPI, and you’re in the conversation of having a postseason.”
At the time, it sounded every bit of a coach simply putting a bow on a 29-27 season that began with high expectations but ended barley over the .500 plateau.
A harder look shows that this WVU baseball program is likely on the cusp of being a team that can indeed contend in the Big 12 and possibly beyond.
And not to dive too far into next season, but it turns out any hope that pitcher Michael Grove — a second round selection by the Los Angeles Dodgers earlier this month — may return for his junior season is minimal. After missing this season following Tommy John surgery, Grove is still in contract negotiations with the Dodgers and is expected to sign soon.
Still, Mazey already has signed a talented recruiting class for next season. He already signed a talented shortstop in Tyler Doanes last year, who appears to have the makings of a pro-in-waiting.
Talented hitters Marques Inman, Darius Hill and Braden Zarbnisky are expected to return for their senior seasons.
Power-hitting Kevin Brophy is also expected to return after missing much of last season with an injury.
Zarbnisky and teammate Brandon White will probably be two of the Big 12’s top base stealers next season.
There is again enough potential for some high expectations, something that is generally reserved in these parts for the football or men’s basketball team.
Maybe there will be enough talent to carry the Mountaineers into hosting a regional in next season’s NCAA tournament. Maybe.
More to the point, though, there is definitely enough potential to make this WVU baseball program worth keeping an eye on.
That, in itself, is quite an accomplishment.