Despite a stumble at the finish line, the 2023 WVU baseball season was still one for the history books.
The Mountaineers lost seven of their final eight games but matched the program record for wins in a season (40), won their first Big 12 regular season title and had their first Big 12 Player of the Year in second baseman J.J. Wetherholt.
“I told the guys if anybody comes up to you in the next week or so and says ‘what happened this year,’ tell them we were ranked in the top-10, we won the Big 12, won 40 games and brought a community together,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said after the team’s 10-0 loss to Kentucky on Sunday. “That’s what happened this year.”
Mazey stressed that he wanted his players, and the WVU community, to realize how special 2023 was, even if the team disappointed in the postseason.
“We packed our stadium the second half of the season,” Mazey said. “We brought the community together like has never been done before in our program. Once the emotion of today dies down, I think these guys will realize, and a lot of people will realize, that this was one of the best seasons any team has ever put together.
“This was probably the greatest season in the history of West Virginia baseball.”
The end of the season was disappointing only because of how well the Mountaineers played all year long. It’s important to remember that WVU was picked to finish sixth in the conference in the Big 12 preseason poll and ended up winning a share of the title.
“There’s only one team out there out of 64 (in the NCAA Tournament) that’s going to not feel the way that we do right now,” Mazey said. “Everybody loses their last game except for the last team standing.”
Outside of Wetherholt, the Mountaineers accomplished what they did without any other superstars and a pitching staff that had only two reliable starters.
“That’s why I say we really overachieved this year,” Mazey said. “To go into this season when your Friday starter (Ben Hampton) and your Saturday starter (Blaine Traxel) both throw 84 miles per hour and you don’t really know who your Sunday guy is or who your mid-week guy is, but to just keep winning and winning and winning like we did is the reason I say we overachieved this year instead of underachieved.”
WVU also made a regional for the first time since hosting in 2019. That team never had the chance to follow up that success with the 2020 season being canceled, but Mazey thinks things could get even better for the Mountaineers in 2024.
“That’s what we said last year when we thought we should’ve got in a regional and didn’t,” Mazey said. “(We said) ‘let’s do what we’ve got to do to get in one’ and that’s what we did. Today we’re going to say ‘let’s do what we’ve got to do to win one next year’ and we’re already going to work on how to make that happen.”
“I would say it was a great season, for sure,” said senior shortstop Tevin Tucker, the only holdover from the 2019 team. “It felt good to be back in the postseason and I know that they’ll be back. Coach Mazey will have them back in a heartbeat. It was a great season and I loved every moment of it.”