Baseball, Sports, WVU Sports

Randy Mazey heads into final Big 12 home series with Mountaineers in contention for league title

MORGANTOWN — Between having the WVU baseball team in the hunt for a second-consecutive Big 12 title and celebrating another batch of his seniors earning their college degrees, Randy Mazey already has enough to deal with this weekend.

Yet the end is closing in on Mazey’s coaching career, something, he says, he’s constantly reminded of from his family.

“One thing I don’t want this to be is about me,” Mazey said about the three-game series that begins at 6:30 p.m. Friday against Kansas State, Mazey’s final home Big 12 series before he retires at the end of this season. “If it becomes about me, then it becomes a huge distraction. I want it to be about the kids and the fans and the community.

“When I’ve coached my last game, then I guess it can be about me, because it doesn’t affect this year’s team anymore. As long as this team is playing and playing well and has a chance to do something, it needs to be about them.”

The Mountaineers (29-18, 15-9 Big 12) enter the series in a three-way tie for second place in the conference, just three games behind Oklahoma.

Mathematically, WVU will likely need a sweep of the Wildcats (28-19, 12-12) to stay in the race.

“I feel like we need to get Kansas State out in the first inning on Friday,” Mazey said. “That’s what we think about. If you start thinking about what happens down the road then you lose the first inning.

“You’ve got to think about each moment as it comes, and we’re not going to look ahead to that.”

In a nutshell, that’s been Mazey’s philosophy all along.

Rarely one to try and see the forest through the trees, Mazey’s focus has generally been to chop down the first tree and then move on to the next one.

It’s how he built the WVU baseball program — one step at a time — into a top 25-type program with expectations of playing in the NCAA tournament every season.

That became evident last month when dozens of alumni were introduced and honored during a series against Baylor, and Mazey couldn’t help from sounding like a proud papa while reminiscing with them.

“We had a bunch of guys back from 2013, my first team,” at WVU, Mazey said. “That team there really set the tone for what we’re doing now.

“That was our first year in the Big 12 and Harrison Musgrave was on that team. He threw five-straight complete-game shutouts on Friday nights in the Big 12. He single-handedly changed the standings for us to finish third in our first year.”

Mazey and WVU weren’t winning many recruiting battles back in those days, instead relying on finding diamonds in the rough and developing their shine over time.

That was how former star pitcher Alek Manoah was created, which led to the Mountaineers hosting a NCAA regional in 2019.

It was how former stars such as outfielders Darius Hill and Victor Scott were built and molded into future major league prospects, all of them helping the WVU program climb the next rung in the ladder.

“When you look over at his career, he’s always been around winning baseball,” Pitt head coach Mike Bell said. “He’s always had a brand of getting the most out of his guys. He’s been dynamic in that way.”

Right guy, right time

To tell the story of who Mazey is and what he stands for directly ties into what the baseball program has become under his watch.

Flash back to the summer of 2012, when Mazey was still an assistant at TCU.

It was just a year earlier when former WVU athletic director Oliver Luck had played a role in getting the school accepted into the Big 12, but now he had announced Greg Van Zant’s contract would not be renewed, and there were questions being asked if it was even worth it for the university to have a baseball program competing in the Big 12.

Luck had conversations with WVU alum Ken Kendrick, the owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, as well as with Pittsburgh Pirates owner Bob Nutting.

There was a path to success, Luck came to believe, but it was going to require a heightened financial commitment to both the funding of scholarships, as well as facilities.

And the right coach would have to be hired, someone who was not only successful, but also understood the West Virginia lifestyle and the surrounding recruiting areas.

Enter Mazey, born in Johnstown, Pa. — 70 miles east of Pittsburgh — who had already won conference championships as the head coach at Charleston Southern and East Carolina, while taking those schools to a combined four NCAA tournaments.

As it turned out, Mazey checked off all of WVU’s boxes.

“Western Pennsylvania matches up with our program pretty well, because it’s blue collar and we’re a blue-collar program,” Mazey said. “I think kids gravitate to that. If you watch us play, it appears that we play with a little bit of an edge all the time. I think that’s what the blue-collar kids of Western Pennsylvania look for.

“We feel like we’re going to out-work people and out-hustle people, that’s just what our program is all about. It’s close to home and you get to play in the Big 12. That’s a match made in heaven for these kids.”

The facilities came shortly after. Mon County Ballpark — now named Kendrick Family Ballpark — opened in 2015.

In all, $25 million was dedicated to the new stadium, with the bulk coming from Monongalia County approving tax increment funds, which uses taxes on future real estate gains to pay for current construction.

WVU was now directly on a path to not only compete in the Big 12, but be a contender, too.

One final run

Mazey announced in July 2023 that this would be his 12th-and-final season at WVU, with assistant coach Steve Sabins taking over in 2025.

In those previous 11 seasons, the Mountaineers won a share of the 2023 Big 12 regular-season championship and have played in three NCAA tournaments.

WVU tied a school record with 40 victories last season, while moving up as high as No. 7 in the national polls, the highest the program has ever been ranked.

All of that information can be found in Mazey’s bio, but doesn’t come close in describing who he is.

From a media point of view, Mazey is a no-nonsense guy, yet has a subtle sense of humor.

He is quick to give you his side-eye look when asked a question that is perhaps too off the wall or corny, yet Mazey is also open, communicative and informative when discussing his players and the game.

He speaks passionately about the WVU fans, the Morgantown community and the entire state of West Virginia, often mentioning the impact the large Kendrick Family Ballpark crowds have on his team.

“I hear little comments out of our team saying how they love playing in front of packed houses at home and they play better in front of packed houses,” he said. “We couldn’t do that if it wasn’t for the fans and the people in the community. That’s a testament to the crowds and the community and the state that supports us.”

To his players, Mazey is more than just a coach or a program builder.

“He’s like a second father to me,” said WVU shortstop J.J. Wetherholt, who won the 2023 Big 12 Player of the Year under Mazey’s coaching. “He was the one of the biggest if not the biggest reason I came here.

“He reminds me of my dad; he’s a good guy. He knows how to create well-mannered men. That’s the thing, he’s more than just a baseball coach, he’s a life coach. We’re more than just baseball players to him and so he’s more than just a baseball coach to me.”

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