Baseball, Sports, WVU Sports

No. 4 North Carolina ends WVU’s Super Regional run with 2-1 win

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — A historic season and an amazing coaching career came to an end Saturday night.
In symbolic fashion, West Virginia’s baseball season and Randy Mazey’s coaching career didn’t cross the finish line without first creating some anticipation and neither went down without a fight.

With the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, North Carolina relief pitcher Dalton Pence outraced WVU’s Benjamin Lumsden in a race to first base.

Pence took in Parks Harber’s underhand toss to the bag and recorded the final out, as the No. 4 Tar Heels held off the Mountaineers 2-1 inside a sold-out Boshamer Stadium.

The Tar Heels (47-14) advanced to their 12th College World Series — its first since 2018 — as Vance Honeycutt and freshman Jason DeCaro combined to punch the Tar Heels’ ticket.

West Virginia (36-24) saw its first-ever trip to a super regional end in two thrilling games, but also in two heartbreaking defeats.

“That was a hard-fought 18 innings of baseball,” Mazey said. “I’m not sure they expected that out of the Mountaineers.”

Mazey’s 12-year career with the Mountaineers is now complete, but not without reaching one last milestone of leading WVU to the final 16 teams still left playing in the country.

“I told our guys out there that after 35 years of coaching that was the team I wanted to end my career with,” Mazey said. “I love each and every one of them.”

Mazey’s tenure at WVU ends with 356 victories, but also with the reputation of those victories taking the Mountaineers to higher levels.

He led WVU to the Big 12 title last year. In 2019, Mazey guided the Mountaineers into becoming a regional host of the NCAA tournament.

WVU’s trip to the NCAA tournament this season was its second straight, the first time the program has played in consecutive NCAA tournaments since 1961-64.

“These 12 years have been unbelievable,” Mazey said. “Your’re supposed to leave something better than you found it. We continued to do new things here at West Virginia, so I’m confident that we’ve done that.”
A night after Honeycutt ended any chance of a WVU upset in Game 1 with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, the junior center fielder was at it again.

He sent the first pitch he saw from WVU starter Tyler Switalski 338 feet down the left-field line for a home run, giving him two long balls on two consecutive swings on two different days.

Honeycutt bunted for a single his next time up and then got defensive by pulling off a weird double play in the fourth inning.

After Sam White had led off that inning with a walk, Reed Chumley flied out to center. For some reason, White had made a break for second base, only for Honeycutt to throw a strike from the outfield to complete the double play.

“Not too many people can make that play,” UNC head coach Scott Forbes said. “I’ve said since the beginning of the season that he’s the best player in the country. I really believe that.”

Meanwhile, DeCaro dominated on the mound for 6 1/3 innings.

He allowed just two hits and struck out five, not bad for a kid who just turned 18-years old two months ago.

But that all began to change in the seventh inning.

Chumley singled with one out, which forced Forbes to go to reliever Dalton Pence. After Spencer Barnett walked, Kyle West singled home Barnett for WVU’s lone run.

In the bottom of the ninth, White singled and Grant Hussey and West drew walks.

With two outs, Lumsden hit a soft ground ball to a UNC infield that was playing back.

It was up to Pence to get over to the bag — “I don’t know if you guys know this about me, but I’m not a runner,” Pence said. — and he hauled in Harber’s throw and touched the bag inches ahead of Lumsden to end it.

“I’m just so proud of how well we competed down here,” Mazey said. “Not many people picked us to win this thing. The feeling they have now will drive them. It will drive them in the first day of fall practice next year.

“They’re going to have to drive without old coach Mazey, but they’ll remember this feeling.”