The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

May 9, 2014

WVU baseball begins home stretch at Kansas

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University heads into the home stretch of the 2014 baseball season in a strong contending position but is going to have to find a way to finish with a flourish on the road against a pair of hot teams to assure itself a spot in an NCAA Regional.

The Mountaineers play at Kansas this weekend in Lawrence and then close the season at Texas Tech.

“We can’t just start showing up and feel we can beat people,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “We have to grind things out. That’s a sign of a mature team and great leadership.”

These will be difficult games, although WVU seems to be in the NCAAs unless the Mountaineers lose maybe five of the six games … but that’s not an impossibility.

Kansas had won seven straight games and done it convincingly until dropping a mid-week game on Tuesday at Missouri State. That, though, was one of those trap games like the Virginia Tech meeting that the Mountaineers survived despite a sluggish performance.

Kansas’ record now stands at 30-21 as compared with WVU’s 27-17 record, and Kansas is 12-9 to rank third in the Big 12, just ahead of fourth-place WVU, which has won 9 of 17 conference games.

Kansas owns six straight Big 12 victories, including a sweep of No. 19 Texas Tech, the other team WVU must battle.

And while Kansas swept Texas Tech, that was in Lawrence. The Red Raiders are a totally different team at home, where they have lost only four games all season, against 28 victories.

Kansas has not only been winning but it has been dominating in sweeping its past two Big 12 series, outscoring Baylor and Texas Tech, 40-15 in winning six games.

“This series is going to be huge,” Mazey said. “If we do get four or five, maybe six bids, this series could wind up being a swing vote for whoever wins it.”

WVU’s last Big 12 action was a thrilling weekend when it won two of three from Texas, who was ranked No. 11 in the nation, to close out its stay in Hawley Field. Texas was the highest ranked team WVU ever won a series against at Hawley Field.

The Mountaineers plan to move into a new $21 million facility next season that they will share with a minor league franchise.

Winning two of three from Texas boosted the Mountaineers’ confidence to a new high.

“I think it proves to the whole country that we’re for real, that we’re not just some team that gets lucky once in a while,” third baseman Michael Constantini said.

WVU still is unsure if centerfielder Bobby Boyd, the Big 12’s leading hitter with a .376 average, will be ready to play against Kansas. He missed the Virginia Tech game with a hand injury, and his absence gives a whole different look to the Mountaineer offense, losing a dangerous hitter who provides great speed at the top of the lineup.

West Virginia can use Boyd, but they come into the game with their bats blazing. They pounded Texas for double-figure hits in each game, even the 2-0 defeat in which they left 12 runners on base.

If WVU does make it to the NCAAs, it will be in part to Mazey creating a strong schedule to play against.

“All I knew was I wanted to play the best possible teams we could play,” he said. “We wanted to play the best competition.”

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

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