MORGANTOWN — Is it possible that the worst thing that could have happened to West Virginia, ending its regular baseball season by going into Texas and being swept in a three-game series, could have been the best thing that could have happened to them?
The Dickens, you say.
It was Charles Dickens, you may recall from English lit courses, who began his classic novel “A Tale of Two Cities” with this quote:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
Indeed, it was all of that for the Mountaineers, who could have come out of Texas as the No. 1 seed in the Big 12 Tournament and ranked in the nation’s Top 5 teams but instead enter the tournament as the No. 3 seed and ranked No. 21 in the country.
They find themselves right where they want to be ... underdogs.
And Manager Randy Mazey has made sure they know it. At a meeting on Monday, Mazey talked about how the season had gone and asked his players how many of them had seen the original “Rocky” movie where he fought Apollo Creed.
“I talked to the team yesterday about how the season has gone so far. I asked those guys if any of them had seen the original Rocky movies with Apollo Creed.
“Believe or not, some of our guys on the team had never seen that movie,” Mazey said.
But he had a message to deliver from that movie, telling his team:
“You don’t have to win every round to win the fight. You just got to win it at the end. We’ve gone eight rounds so far (eight Big 12 series). We’ve won six and lost two, but we’re going into the ninth round of a 10-round fight (Big 12 Tournament and NCAA Tournament) and we’ve just got to win one round at a time.
“Who cares if you won round 5, 6 or 7. When you get to round 9, those are the championship rounds and that’s when you’re tired, when you’ve been punched in the face the whole time and you just got to come out when the bell rings and knock the other guy out,” Mazey said.
That, of course, when the true meaning of that Rocky-Apollo Creed fight came out, with Creed hanging on and saying to Rocky, “Ain’t gonna be no rematch” and Rocky replies, “Don’t want one.”
That was the respect the champion and underdog had built for each other in the ring.
To Mazey, there’s only one choice for his team to be when it comes to Apollo Creed or Rocky.
“We’re Rocky, man,” he said. “We were picked sixth going into this thing so, in typical fashion, nobody thinks we can win when this thing starts. It’s by no means over, but it’s way easier to play as the underdog than it is as the favorite.
“We are going to come out with a chip on our shoulder like we always do and see how we do.”
And so, Mazey expects his team to get up off the floor after the blow that knocked them down in Texas, and have the Big 12 ready to say to them “Ain’t gonna be no rematch.”
“The one thing about this team — I have a ton of confidence in this team. I’ve been around them for 55 games now and I know what they are capable of doing. There’s never going to be a day we take the field that I don’t have 100% belief in every guy in uniform,” Mazey said.
“I feel really good about our chances to win on Wednesday and go through this tournament and go on to the postseason and do things that have never been done here before.”
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