By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
West Virginia University baseball coach Randy Mazey believes that the change in format of the Big 12 Tournament will benefit his Mountaineers because it allows him to hold conference Pitcher of the Year Harrison Musgrave until the key second game of the tournament.
The tournament was pushed back a day because of the EF-5 tornado that savaged the Oklahoma City area and the format changed from double elimination to pool play. It begins today with the third-seeded Mountaineers facing sixth-seeded Kansas at 5 p.m., at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
The new format will place seeds No. 1, 4, 5 and 8 in one pool and seeds No. 2, 3, 6 and 7 in the second pool. The winner from each pool will then advance to Sunday’s title game that is set for 2 p.m.
“I think the change in format actually helps us,” Mazey said. “You don’t go into an elimination game on Friday. You feel like you have a chance to win no matter how the first game goes. It is going to come down to a three-game series. We’ve won several series in the Big 12 this year, and this is just another one that you have to play different teams throughout.”
The key difference the change makes is that Mazey will start Dan Dierdorff in Game 1 against Kansas instead of Musgrave.
“They switched the schedule on us, so we are going to go back and switch the schedule on them,” Mazey said. “We are going to match up certain pitchers against certain teams, so we are going to throw Dan Dierdorff against Kansas, and we are going to use Harrison (Musgrave) in our second game against TCU. It is something that we as coaches have talked about, and we have involved both pitchers in the decision. We are going to go into it very confident.”
Think of it this way. Mazey has Musgrave available for the second game no matter what the situation. If WVU loses the opener, he will be in position to save the season and put WVU in a position to advance if it can win against TCU and then beat Oklahoma State.
And, of course, if WVU beats Kansas he can lift them into the final game of pool play with a 2-0 record with a victory.
Dierdorff started against the Jayhawks on April 27; the senior righty allowed three runs on seven hits in a complete-game 4-3 victory.
“When you get to the end of the year, seniors have a way of playing better later in their careers – that is why they become seniors,” Mazey said. “Their experience really helps them out. I don’t think he will get caught up in the big crowd and the big stadium. He has been around for a while, and he will be focused.”
The Kansas series was the key series during the regular season for WVU, which had been picked to finish last in the Big 12 until sweeping the Jayhawks ignited their confidence.
The pitching staff went 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA in 30 innings, striking out 22 with only four walks in the series.
Offensively, senior right-fielder Brady Wilson batted .417 with one run, one double, one triple and one RBI. Sophomore second baseman Billy Fleming hit .400 with three doubles and four RBIs.
The Big 12 Championship will have all games televised on Fox College Sports, while WVU’s three games can be heard on the affiliates of the Mountaineer Sports Network with the Morgantown affiliate WAJR 1440 AM serving as the flagship station.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.