Randy Mazey’s West Virginia University baseball team lifts the lid on the 2017 season later today when the Mountaineers take on Charlotte in a three-game series at Robert Mariam Hayes Stadium in Charlotte.
It’s the fifth season for Mazey at WVU and most observers believe this could be his best team yet in Morgantown.
Last year, West Virginia lost in heartbreaking fashion to TCU in 10 innings in the championship game of the Big 12 Tournament, denying the Mountaineers’ bid to end their 20-year NCAA Tournament drought.
WVU had an outstanding 36-22 record, including a better than .500 record in Big 12 play with an RPI in the mid-50s, but some early, midweek missteps against Penn State, Canisius and Furman turned out to be its undoing last season.
All games matter, starting with the three this weekend against the Conference USA 49ers.
By the way, 2017 is the 125th year of WVU baseball.
Former Mountaineer Harrison Musgrave, the 2013 Big 12 Pitcher of the Year, is participating in spring training for the Colorado Rockies as a non-roster invitee. Although Musgrave will likely begin the season in the minors, a call-up to the big club sometime this year is now a definite possibility.
Musgrave began last year at Double-A Hartford where he posted a 5-1 record with a 1.79 ERA before being promoted to Triple-A Albuquerque where he went 8-7 with a 4.30 ERA in 113 innings.
Musgrave has a 28-17 professional record since being picked in the eighth round of the 2014 Major League Draft.
Mike Carey’s West Virginia University women’s basketball team collected an important, 66-59 victory on Wednesday night against 24th-ranked Kansas State, avenging a 15-point loss to the Wildcats back on January 1.
Kansas State chose to play a box-and-one defense on West Virginia’s Tynice Martin
, whose 65 points scored in her last two games against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State earned her Big 12 Player of the Week honors. And while K-State won the battle, limiting Martin to just six shots and four points, the Mountaineers won the war with four different players reaching double figures, led by 14 each from guards Chania Ray
and Katrina Pardee
According to the pseudo RPI website Warren Nolan.com, West Virginia has an RPI of 48 heading into another important road game tomorrow at Iowa State, which defeated the Mountaineers by 25 at the Coliseum earlier this month.
The 17-8 Mountaineers’ RPI has jumped 15 points in the last 11 days, which is an encouraging sign.
One other note on the WVU women: West Virginia’s victory Wednesday night made it eight straight years under Mike Carey WVU has defeated at least two top 25 teams during a season, and 11 out of the last 12 years.
That’s a pretty good run of success right there.
West Virginia’s director of player personnel Ryan Dorchester is a big proponent of a December early signing period for football, which is up for vote later this spring.
Dorchester believes an early signing period will make the process more transparent for all parties involved.
“Kids love options until they have to make decisions,” he explained. “I think by limiting some of that will help because at the end of the day there is no perfect place.”
One option that was under consideration was having the early signing period during the summertime, which Dorchester does not favor.
“It could ruin a kid’s high school career,” he said. “Can you imagine a kid who is committed before his senior year tweaking an ankle week one and saying, ‘I’m done. I’m not risking my future.’ We are seeing it on the college level now with kids skipping bowl games (to get ready for the NFL Draft).
“I think they got it right and I think it’s a good proposal for all parties involved and it will take away from some of the dog and pony shows you are seeing. Yes, there will still be kids who will not sign in December who will go through the full process, but it will cut down on a lot of the other ones,” he said.
One consequence of having an early signing period could be the extra pressure that will be applied to those top prospects who choose to wait and sign in February as recruiters look to complete their classes.
Otherwise, the positives of having a football early signing period far outweigh the negatives, particularly for programs such as WVU who are required to travel considerable distances in order to fill out their rosters.
I will be the first to admit that I view recruiting with a great deal of skepticism these days, although I do appreciate the amount of hard work that goes into it.
One of the many things that troubles me is the practice of ranking recruiting classes on signing day. Why not wait and evaluate signing classes in July right before fall training camp begins?
Wouldn’t that more accurately reflect what a team has done in recruiting for an entire year?
Take Kansas State, for instance. The Wildcats’ recruiting classes are regularly ranked in the 50s and 60s on the first Wednesday of each February, yet they always seem to have top 20 talent when the football goes in the air in September.
Anyone who has watched the Wildcats over the last 10-15 years would agree with that statement.
How does it happen?
Because they take players all year long - four-year transfers, junior college players and late signees. Recruiting doesn’t stop on signing day for them - sometimes it just begins.
I recall former WVU coach John Beilein doing something similar here with the basketball program by holding a scholarship or two waiting on transfers or late bloomers.
And we’re seeing this a little bit with Dana Holgorsen’s football program now, too, with the Mountaineers adding more late signees, four-year transfers and junior college players.
Among Big 12 programs, I am told West Virginia has the most players invited to this year’s NFL scouting combine with five - this despite the Mountaineers’ recruiting classes typically ranking from the middle to the bottom of the Big 12 each February.
Of the five WVU players going to this year’s combine, one was a transfer from another four-year school, one was a junior college player and another is an early entrant.
In other words, all five didn’t come in together.
Put another way, where would this year’s recruiting class be rated if Florida transfer Will Grier
was considered a part of it?
For that matter, where would West Virginia’s 1981 recruiting class have been rated had Jeff Hostetler also been included, or the 1995 recruiting haul if summer-signee Amos Zereoue was added?
In reality, ranking signing classes in February only accounts for part of the deal - not the whole deal, in my opinion.
There’s still five months left for teams to add players to its roster - some of them, such as West Virginia and Kansas State - quite successfully, I might add.
When I was in graduate school one of the classes that I really enjoyed was sports law, taught by local attorney Dan Oliver.
One of the cases I recall studying was Hackbart v. Cincinnati Bengals, which determined that the Bengals were liable for an injury Dale Hackbart sustained when his neck was broken by Bengals fullback Boobie Clark during a regular season game played in 1973.
The jury deemed Hackbart’s injury, which ultimately ended his career, was excessive and beyond the inherent risks of playing the game.
And finally, Saturday’s game against Texas Tech will be the fifth sellout in the last seven home dates this season for men’s basketball. Bob Huggins’ nationally ranked Mountaineers are averaging 11,040 fans for their 15 home dates so far, on pace for the fourth-best home attendance in Coliseum history.
The 2010 Final Four team had the best average attendance with the 12,377 fans per game who showed up for the 14 dates that season.
In 2011, West Virginia averaged 11,469 fans per contest and in 1982, an average of 11,364 fans came out to watch Gale Catlett’s Mountaineers win 23 straight games and make a return to the top 10 for the first time in more than 20 years.
After Saturday’s game against the Red Raiders, only two more home dates remain against Texas on Big Monday and against Iowa State on Friday, March 3, which is Senior Night.
There are tickets remaining for Monday night’s Texas game and those can be purchased by contacting the Mountaineer Ticket Office toll-free at 1-800-WVU GAME
or by logging on to WVUGAME.com
Have a great weekend!