Xavier West Virginia Baseball

WVU’s JJ Wetherholt runs the bases against Xavier during a game on Sunday, March 26, in Morgantown.

MORGANTOWN — It wasn't how they pictured it by any means.

It wasn't how they wanted it to end by any means.

But even though Texas beat the pants off West Virginia for the second straight game, don't be calling them chumps.

Nope, call them champs.

Somehow, the wild, crazy world that has been the Big 12 baseball season, WVU turned a 10-4 loss into a celebration as they claimed a share of their first ever Big 12 regular season championship.

OK, there wasn't any champagne. Not yet.

See, here's what happened and what can happen.

While the Mountaineers were mauled again, Oklahoma was wrapping up a going away present for the Mountaineers by beating Oklahoma State.

With that, the most games Oklahoma State could win this season in the conference was 15.

West Virginia already has 15 wins.

Same for Texas.

So, WVU plays for an outright claim to the regular season title Saturday afternoon.

Win it and they have 16 wins, Texas has 14 and Oklahoma State, if it beats the Sooners, who next year will be playing in the SEC, will have 15.

That would be the No. 1 seed for Randy Mazey, JJ Wetherholt and this gritty gang of Mountaineers who overachieved all season after being selected to finish sixth in the conference in the coaches preseason poll.

OK, there's that scab of losing 12-2 on Thursday and 10-4 on Friday, but you know what, ain't nobody left in the Big 12 Conference — see Texas will be gone to SEC next year, too — is going to remember that 10 years from now.

All they are going to remember is the way West Virginia fooled the experts, the way Wetherholt hit and hit and hit in a record-shattering season, the way the bullpen rose higher than anyone knew it could, even Mazey didn't expect it.

It was a team that ran, played defense, hit and pitched.

And so they dropped two in a row in Texas when all they needed was one win to clinch the title.

Today they can claim the championship all unto themselves and if you think anyone was thinking that back in the chill of winter when the season started, you are dead wrong.

Think back a few years, back to Hawley Field, to 1996 when WVU last won a baseball championship. They were playing in the Big East then, no one was even thinking about playing in the Big 12. You would have been laughed at if you had mentioned to anyone that there would be this neat new ballpark up on the hill and the fans would be there with cheers, beers and Mountaineers, selling out the place and rediscovered the spirit that used to come with big wins in football and basketball.

Oliver Luck, who brought wins to Don Nehlen at the start of his career as a quarterback, had the vision as athletic director to get the school into the Big 12 and get the Mon County Ballpark financed as WVU modernized and motorized its athletic department.

It's gone through a lot, but this loss here shows what it can be like for even in the ashes of that 10-4 game they found the golden nugget that is a baseball championship with the chance to claim it all their own alone by beating Texas in the final game of the series.

Winning it with a loss says something about WVU sports, about how it always comes down to having to win more to get where they want to go ... Cal in the NCAA finals, Duke in Final Four, Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, Pitt in the last game of what seemed to be a national championship football season.

Always there's been that mountain for a Mountaineer to climb and too often they couldn't reach the top.

Now they have taken a huge step there and if they win on Saturday, they will claim the crown and probably a Regional played in its ballpark and then ....

Well, if you can win by losing, maybe this year will hold a bigger prize than anyone expects even now.

Follow @bhertzel on Twitter

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