Mazey: “Compete on every ground” | Tuesday News
MORGANTOWN — When the Big 12 released their 2022 preseason baseball poll, West Virginia found itself predicted to finish eighth in the 10-team conference, which now looks like one of those headlines. from Chicago Tribute “Dewey Beats Truman”.
See, as we all woke up Sunday and Monday morning, the climbers were firmly entrenched at the top of the leaderboard.
Admittedly, it was early, but two series into the season they had won two of three at TCU and followed that up by sweeping Baylor at Mon County Ballpark.
Don’t doubt, WVU was well aware of what was going on.
“It’s always fun to prove people wrong,” pitcher Ben Hampton said after improving to 5-2 with a Saturday win over Baylor.
Coach Randy Mazey admits he wasn’t happy with his team’s preseason placement. Somehow he felt like Rodney Dangerfield, getting no respect, so much so that he now starts cracking jokes like Dangerfield.
“To be honest, I was really upset when that poll came out and we were picked eighth,” he said. “I really wish they had picked us ninth because when you do that it gives you all the motivation to play. We’ve used that to our advantage in recent years.
“It makes you play with a chip on your shoulder. That’s how we like to play. It challenged our pride a bit and when you challenge the pride of a group of kids who work as hard as our kids , then that’s what you get.”
Admittedly, it’s too early to take it seriously, especially with Oklahoma State due to come to My County Ballpark this weekend with a 23-9, 7-2 record in the Big 12, but what people better start taking seriously is how WVU got to the point where it’s 20-10 and 5-1.
Mountaineers are not one-trick ponies.
They steal bases, but also hit home runs. They throw well and complement it with solid defense. They find ways to win games and when there are no more ways to find, they invent new ways.
They won on home runs and walkouts.
They robbed the house.
The top of their batting order delivers one day, the bottom another day.
If Victor Scott doesn’t steal four bases in a game or steal a few more base hits from the opposition with spectacular catches, Austin Davis homers and makes a rally-killing defensive play or JJ Wetherholt has four hits or Hampton is ramping up a jewel mound.
And when Hampton pitches well, it means the defense is playing well.
“The defense has been amazing all year,” Hampton said after Baylor’s win when Scott and Davis came to his rescue. “I didn’t quite have the speed or location that I normally have. The defense made some amazing plays down the middle – AD cutting that ball was a big moment. We made some big double plays in situations that could have changed the game.”
“It doesn’t happen by chance, though. There is cause and effect at work.
“We play defense the day Ben throws because of the way Ben throws. He throws fast, infielders stay boxed in, outfielders stay boxed in, there are no long innings on defense. The long innings make it difficult to play on defense. He throws a lot of shots, so you have to play defense for him,” Mazey said.
It becomes a “whatever it takes” kind of thing. Take the Baylor win in which Austin Davis got a bunt base hit that landed on the pitcher’s head.
An accident? Luck?
Not on your life.
“It was a big AD play, sending the ball over the pitcher’s head. A lot of people think it was an accident, but it’s a play he’s playing,” said Mazey. “We’re going into a tight game late and our guys feel like they can win it every time.”
That’s because they’re always a bloop or a blast, a clutch hit or a stolen base away from lighting the fuse on a winning rally or a pitch stop or dive away from defusing a such rally of an opponent.
Take the pressure they put on opponents on base paths, already topping 100 steals with 102 to rank third in the nation, Scott tied for fourth with 25 and Davis tied for 14th on 19 steals from 22 tries .
It makes WVU offensive baseball look like Bob Huggins’ basketball team that won games in the “Press Virginia” days.
“It’s just happening,” Scott said. “You have to thank everyone for that. Without everyone it wouldn’t be possible. We have a lot of guys who are super fast so we have to keep going.”
And this speed also works in defense.
“I like the phrase ‘defense wins the game,'” Scott said. “You still have the offense, but it helps to have a few fighters flying around.”
Will it last? Who knows?
“It’s hard to win a streak in this league. Winning any streak in this league at any time is hard to do. To do it the first two weekends is really good,” Mazey said. “As soon as you get overconfident in this league, it kicks you in the stomach.”
So. they’ll just keep scratching it as they go, one at a time.
“If you’re trying to win tomorrow’s game to win the Big 12 championship, it’s never going to work,” Mazey said. “But you have to try to win the first pitch of the game. As long as you compete on every pitch of the game, I think we have a pretty good team.
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