MORGANTOWN — Five days. In the end, that’s what it came down to for the WVU baseball team.
Five days in the state of Texas. By the end of it, head coach Randy Mazey likely wanted out of there faster than Texas wants out of the Big 12.
“It’s a little bit frustrating when people look at it like all we had to do was win one game,” Mazey said following the No. 21-ranked Mountaineers’ ouster from the Big 12 tournament on Thursday after losing 3-2 against Oklahoma State, going 0-2. “That’s the kiss of death when you think that way.”
It certainly was for the Mountaineers (39-18), who walked into Austin last week needing just one victory in three games against the Longhorns to win the Big 12 title outright and secure the No. 1 seed in the league tournament.
Just getting to that point was a journey of roughly 90 days, each one of them seemingly creating a jolt of energy and enthusiasm felt around the entire state. It just continued to snowball into the type of season that was mere inches from historic.
Never before had a WVU baseball team reached the heights of being No. 6 in the country, its ranking last week. Go back to February when the Mountaineers were picked sixth, not in the country, but just in the Big 12, to show how far this team climbed.
“We have been really, really good for a real long time, and if you know anything about college baseball, you know how hard that is to do,” Mazey said.
Three losses at Texas — by a combined 20 runs — to end the regular season turned into two more in the Big 12 tournament.
It’s the second-consecutive year WVU was eliminated in just two games at the Big 12 tournament, with both years being played at Globe Life Field in Arlington.
Those five games saw WVU handcuffed offensively. The Mountaineers had spent the majority of the season using speed, creativity, power and discipline to put up run after run.
The Mountaineers — once the Big 12 leaders in stolen bases — were held to just two in three games against Texas, and just two more in the Big 12 tournament.
The walks and hit-by-pitches that had created an average of eight extra WVU runners on base per game were nearly cut in half over the five setbacks.
And the offense suffered. WVU scored 13 runs total in those five games. It had 10 games this season in which it scored 13 or more.
“We didn’t look like a top-10 team in the nation (in Austin),” Mazey said. “We needed to come here and play well.”
Mazey was quick to credit the pitching the Mountaineers faced.
“Our at-bats (against Oklahoma State) were against two guys you’re probably going to be watching in the big leagues here in the next four or five years,” Mazey said. “We didn’t swing and miss much against (Nolan) McLean, and that’s hard to do. That guy is going to be a big leaguer.”
Now it becomes a waiting game back in Morgantown. The NCAA selection show is noon Monday (ESPN2), when the Mountaineers learn which regional they’ll be shipped off to.
WVU will arrive there likely out of the national rankings and no longer carrying that feel-good vibe it’s had for so long.
And there are questions that need answered. Is its star player, J.J. Wetherholt, in a slump? He was a combined 4 for 19 with no RBIs in those five games. He was 2 for 2 against the Cowboys and reached base four times.
More importantly, were those five games in Texas the start of a collapse or simply a bump in the road?
“I think today’s game, if you just take out the result, will really help us going into next week,” Mazey said. “You’re not going to see better pitching than that. You’re probably not going to see a better offense than that.”