ARLINGTON, Texas – After a hard-fought 3-2 loss to second-seeded Oklahoma State, West Virginia head baseball coach Randy Mazey made an emphatic case for WVU to receive its first NCAA tournament bid since 2019.
“It would be blasphemous if the Big 12 Champion doesn’t make the NCAA tournament,” Mazey said after Thursday’s loss at Globe Life Field. “(If we miss the tournament), someone will have to explain it to me through a glass partition.”
Exactly a week ago, the thought of the 21st nationally-ranked Mountaineers (39-18) missing the NCAA tournament was unfathomable.
WVU was ranked sixth in the country, but they were swept at Texas last weekend – which meant that No. 20 UT and No. 18 Oklahoma State (38-17) shared the Big 12 Championship with WVU. On Thursday morning, top-seeded Texas (38-20) was eliminated with a 6-0 loss to fifth-seeded Kansas State.
“To say we were on a roll before Austin would be an understatement,” Mazey said. “We were playing well for a long period of time.”
The Mountaineers experienced their fifth consecutive loss, matching their longest losing streak since April 2021. They also lost their fifth straight Big 12 tournament game and dropped to 0-4 at Globe Life Field.
Despite all of that, Mazey had words of encouragement for his players and staff who won WVU’s first baseball conference title since the 1967 Southern Conference; the Mountaineers had won nine division titles between 1981-1997, but this season marked their first conference title in 56 years.
“The Big 12 tournament is over for us, but the season isn’t,” Mazey said.
Mazey, the Big 12 Coach of the Year, received some kind words from his OSU counterpart, Josh Holliday, after the game.
“He told me that our team is built to win an NCAA Regional, and I asked him if he was on the selection committee,” Mazey said. “You’re not going to see better pitching or hitting than OSU in the NCAA tournament.”
The Cowboys jumped out to a 2-0 first-inning lead on a pair of unearned runs.
Those were the only runs that WVU junior southpaw Ben Hampton would allow through six innings. Hampton allowed three hits and threw his 200th career strikeout.
“It’s a pretty cool milestone,” Hampton said. “I try not to look too much at stats, but this milestone shows how much I want the ball. I want to be out there when it matters.”
The Mountaineers left 12 runners on base, to OSU’s five.
WVU scored its first run in the top of the second inning on junior outfielder Braden Barry’s RBI fielder’s choice. The Mountaineers tied the game at 2-2 on freshman third base Sam White’s fielder’s choice.
The Cowboys scored the winning run on second baseman Roc Riggio’s RBI single in the bottom of the eighth.
WVU had a two-out rally with runners on second and third in the top of the ninth, but the Mountaineers could not bring those runs across the plate.
Mazey was pleased with sophomore second baseman JJ Wetherholt, the Big 12 Player of the Year went 2-for-2 with a run scored after going hitless in the previous two games. Wetherholt is now seven hits away from tying the WVU single-season record.
“JJ had a good game today, and his offense is contagious for our team,” Mazey said.
BY MICHAEL SUDHALTER