In so many ways it was a day that called for celebration.
Randy Mazey’s West Virginia baseball team, the team that was supposed to finish last in its first Big 12 season, was sitting in third place on what should have been the eve of the conference tournament.
One of his pitchers, Bridgeport’s own Harrison Musgrave, had been named the conference’s Pitcher of the Year, infielder Ryan McBroom and designated hitter Matt Frazier had earned second team all-conference honors, and outfielder Bobby Boyd, infielder Billy Fleming, catcher lan Filauro, outfielder Jacob Rice, outfielder Brady Wilson and infielder Ryan Tuntland had been given honorable mention.
It had been a season unlike any that anyone expected played out by a team that went beyond the wildest expectations.
“It’s been as close to a coach’s dream team as you can get,” Mazey would say on Tuesday, but in the end the baseball accomplishments really were a small part of it, for this was a group that rose to unseen heights when it found itself caught in the midst of a human tragedy it could not have imagined.
The regular season was over Saturday at Oklahoma State, the Mountaineers headed into Oklahoma City to prepare for the tournament, only to be caught up in a killer tornado that changed everyone’s outlook on life.
On Sunday the tornados raged through Shawnee, close enough to get some attention but not of the nature that the very world in which the Mountaineers existed came undone.
The next day a twister, two miles wide, on the ground for 20 miles with winds up to 200 mph, destroyed everything in its sight.
The WVU team was but four miles from the scene.
The Mountaineers swung into action, offering to help in any way they could.
“As soon as we decided we were safe, I got on the phone with the Oklahoma City police,” Mazey said. “They transferred me to the Moore police, who gave us the command center.”
WVU was ready to roll up their sleeves like Mountaineers do, to dig in the rubble, to offer any aid they could, but they were told no one was being allowed in the area other than immediate family.
“They didn’t want people getting in the way,” Mazey said.
So it was, instead, they went off to a local Walmart. If they could offer rescue assistance, they could bring supplies.
These, you must remember, are kids who had not been experienced with tornadoes, who had never been in the path of one, who found themselves watching from four miles away. They had gathered in front of the televisions and seen the destruction, heard of the missing children.
“We ran into a woman in Walmart who was a victim,” Mazey said. “That meant a lot to the kids. They saw tangible evidence. A couple of hours earlier she didn’t know if her kids were safe in school in Moore.”
Turned out, she was shopping for the same kinds of things the baseball team was compiling — shoes, underwear, shirts, flashlights, necessities.
“We rerouted her to the checkout line and we gave her some of the things she needed,” Mazey said.
The rest, purchased with money that will come through the “Friends of Baseball” booster group, was gathered and late Tuesday afternoon, the team was to deliver the items for distribution.
“We wanted to take the supplies to a location where some of the victims are at. Hopefully we can and drop them off to the people as opposed to just dropping it off at a distribution point,” Mazey said.
As for the Big 12 Tournament, the storm has forced a change in the format from round-robin to pool play with each team guaranteed three games, the two teams with the best records in round-robin play meeting for the title.
West Virginia opens with Kansas while Oklahoma State and TCU play the other game in Pool 2. Pool 1 matches Oklahoma and Baylor and Texas Tech and top-seeded Kansas State, whose coach Brad Hill won Coach of the Year honors over Mazey.
“We debated canceling the tournament in deference to the devastating tragedy in Moore, but were encouraged by Oklahoma City leaders and the Oklahoma City All-Sports Association to go forward,” said Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby. “We believe the tournament can serve as a testament to the strong Oklahoma spirit and to the resiliency of the Oklahoma people.”
The conference was encouraged to proceed with the championship by Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett.
“We are very appreciative of the consideration by the participating teams and the Big 12 Conference,” Cornett said. “We encouraged and supported the decision to play the championship in a format comfortable to the Big 12.”
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.
In so many ways it was a day that called for celebration.
- WVU Sports
Dreadful shooting costs WVU in 70-61 loss to Missouri
Mountaineers square off with similar Missouri team
If Bob Huggins took a mirror and held it up to the Missouri team that West Virginia University plays tonight in Columbia, Mo., he would get back a reflection of his own team.
FURFARI COLUMN: The sweet and bitter about Oliver Luck
OK, so athletic director Oliver Luck admittedly remains confident that third-year head coach Dana Holgorsen and his staff can turn around West Virginia University’s sinking football program in 2014.
Luck announces Holgorsen will be retained for 2014
West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck put an end to the speculation about the future of head football coach Dana Holgorsen on Tuesday, announcing that he and his staff would be retained for 2014 despite a second consecutive disappointing season.
HERTZEL COLUMN: Like it or not, Holgorsen is coming back
Like it or not, it appears that Dana Holgorsen and his staff will be back to coach the West Virginia football team next year, looking down the throat of an angry Alabama football team to open the season.
FURFARI COLUMN: How much lower can WVU’s program get?
How much lower can West Virginia University’s football program get in the wake of a 4-8 season?
Isn’t there any leadership in that institution that’s at least concerned about the damages thrust upon the Mountaineer fan base by Oliver Luck and Dana Holgorsen the past three years or so?
WVU women overwhelm Coppin State
West Virginia’s women’s basketball team, ignited by Christal Caldwell and Taylor Palmer, turned on the juice after a lackadaisical first half and scored 56 second-half points to bury a game against an overmatched Coppin State team. The 88-56 win gave coach Mike Carey his 250th victory as Mountaineer coach.
Mountaineers make quick work of Greyhounds
A day before West Virginia was to play what seemed to be a dangerous Loyola of Maryland basketball team at the Coliseum, coach Bob Huggins talked for some time in depth about shortcomings his team had been displaying and about how they would have to overcome them to become a good team.
HERTZEL COLUMN- Huggins’ 729th win puts him in elite company
There probably was a time in the middle of last season when Bob Huggins wondered if this day ever would arrive, almost as the thought crossed his mind as he lay in the Pittsburgh airport suffering a heart attack that would have killed a less cantankerous man.
West Virginia women set to host Coppin State
They met in middle school in Norfolk, Va., two young girls with a love for basketball and desire for it to lead them somewhere.
- More WVU Sports Headlines
- Dreadful shooting costs WVU in 70-61 loss to Missouri