The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

May 5, 2014

WVU wins final series at Hawley Field: PHOTOS

MORGANTOWN — The lazy fly ball drifted through the air, riding a strong wind blowing out toward left field but not hit hard enough to threaten going out of the ball park. West Virginia left-field Jacob Rice settled under the baseball, the baseball that would represent the final out in Hawley Field’s history.

The crowd — 2, 267 strong, making it the second-largest crowd ever to witness a game in the old ball park that has existed in the shadow of the Coliseum all these years — began to cheer, the Mountaineers’ 12-6 lead over Texas seemingly safe.

WVU players began to let themselves celebrate, but Randy Mazey just stood there holding his breath.

“No lead is ever safe with the wind blowing like this. Some guys were getting excited on that last fly ball. I didn’t get excited until it went in the glove. Baseball is a crazy game and anything can happen,” he said, his surging team’s ninth victory in its last 11 finally secure.

Indeed, it was a wind that could turn the game into a crazy affair, once blowing so hard that it blew the hat off Mountaineer left-hander John Means in the midst of his windup, reminiscent of the wind that howled through Candlestick Park so hard in the 1961 All-Star game that it blew pitcher Stu Miller off the mound as he tried to pitch for a balk.

But when it was officially over, Mazey let go big time, joining his players as they stood in front of the pitcher’s mound, acknowledging the cheering crowd, waving their hats and as he did, his tiny daughter Sierra came running into the group, beating him on the back in glee.

Moments later, standing halfway between third and home, a path they had worn thin scoring 12 runs, they gathered in a tight group, an arm raised, and sang along as “Country Roads” was played for the last time.

“Before the season we did that and we were saving it for the right moment,” Mazey said. “That was just the perfect time to do it. Last game ever on this field, unbelievable crowd, they’re up there singing.

“Someone has to thank everyone for coming and that’s about the only way to do it.”

It was the perfect ending to a day that had started on a perfect note, with Bill Hawley, the son of the former WVU athletic director Legs Hawley, throwing out the first pitch, a nice touch that came about almost accidentally.

A month or so earlier WVU had a fill-in game in Wilmington, N.C., and

Hawley, out of Preston County and a former WVU athlete, which is where Hawley lives, decided he’d take in the game and introduce himself to Mazey.

“When I told him my name, he looked at me quizzically,” he said.

“He was standing outside the dugout in Wilmington and introduced himself,” Mazey explained. “I looked at him and said, ‘Bill Hawley as in the Hawley Field Hawley?’ He said, yeah, it was named after his father.”

And so it was they invited him up to throw out the first pitch, which may have bounced but wasn’t very bad for a man in his 70s.

A day earlier Texas had shut the Mountaineers out, 2-0, although they left 12 runners on base and hit the ball well all game. That, plus a verbal confrontation between the two teams in the eighth inning, just added to the intrigue this final game at Hawley field carried and when Texas jumped off to a 2-0 lead, things were looking dark for the Mountaineers.

But WVU didn’t let that detract them for a moment, bouncing back for four runs in the bottom off the second, two of them scoring on designated hitter Jackson Cramer’s double, one of his three hits in the game.

It was a big blow from a freshman on Senior Day, but right in the game plan that Mazey had concocted.

“It’s so hard to win on Senior Day, so I went to a couple of nonseniors before the game and told them to make sure the seniors stay on track and don’t have too many emotions. You lose sight of playing baseball (when you get emotional). I think the younger kids helped the seniors keep their emotions in check and that was a great performance,” Mazey explained.

From there WVU built onto its lead, scoring a run in the third and four, more in the fourth with Billy Fleming driving in two and senior first baseman Ryan McBroom driving in another with one of his three hits in his final Hawley Field game.

Texas tried to bounce back with three runs off winner John Means in the top of the fifth, but the Mountaineers with three more runs of their own, and then Means, Pascal Paul and Sean Carley closed it out, giving WVU two of three from No. 11 Texas and putting them at 26-17 for the year and 9-8 in Big 12 play with red hot Kansas coming up next weekend.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter at @bhertzel

 

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