by Jim Buzzerd
I hesitate to even bring this up, but two weeks ago I commented on the successful season the West Virginia University baseball team was having. I believe that was the first mention here of the baseball team this season. They had a two game lead in the Big 12 regular season title race and were in good shape to host a first round regional in the NCAA Tournament. Two weeks later I ponder the idea that I may have jinxed the Mountaineers since they have lost five straight games since I mentioned them here.
They lost three in a row at Texas to finish the regular season in a disappointing three way tie for first place. Technically WVU is considered a champion, sharing the title with Oklahoma State and Texas has to leave a bad taste for some. The Mountaineers then were two and out of the Big 12 Tournament with a 6-2 loss to Texas Tech in the opener and were eliminated with a 3-2 loss to Oklahoma State in the loser’s bracket.
One side note is Texas, another tri-champ was eliminated in two games losing to Kansas and Kansas State respectively. Texas had roughed up WVU pitching for 29 runs in three games three days prior to the tournament but could muster just three and zero runs in two tournament games. Oklahoma State, the other tri-champ, lost to TCU in the tournament championship game.
The five game losing streak also eliminated the Mountaineers from hosting one of 16 regional tournaments. West Virginia was selected as the No. 2 seed in the Lexington Regional, hosted by the No. 12 national seed, Kentucky. The Mountaineers (39-18) will face Indiana (41-18) Friday at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+. Ball State is the No. 4 seed, and they will face Kentucky in the opening game of the double-elimination regional.
“It is really hard to make a regional at West Virginia. When you get in, I was guilty of telling people I don’t care if they send us to Anchorage (Alaska). We’re in the postseason, man. That’s a big deal at West Virginia,” WVU head coach Randy Mazey said.
Kentucky is the No. 2 team in the official NCAA RPI. The Wildcats own a 25-6 record at Kentucky Proud Park. Kentucky posted a 16-14 record in SEC play.
“Every team in this field is capable of winning a regional,” Mazey said. “Who you play really doesn’t matter, it is how you play. We are as good as anybody. If we play well, we will beat anybody. But our best players have to play good. It is that simple.”
Friday’s losers meet at noon Saturday in an elimination game while the winners pair off at 6:00. Sunday’s games are also set for noon and 6:00 and if a game seven on Monday is necessary, it will be at a time determined.
Another note on the Lexington regional is that due to a country music festival fans hoping to attend will have a hard time finding accommodations within an hour of Lexington. West Virginia, Ball State and Indiana teams will be housed on University of Kentucky dorm rooms.