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Big 12 home stretch

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- For Randy Mazey and his West Virginia baseball team, this is uncharted territory.

Well, at least for the team it is.

Mazey has been here before, of course, involved with a flourishing program. He's been in the dugout and watched teams - either as an assistant or a head coach - put together winning streaks or long runs of success. It happened at his previous stops as a head coach at East Carolina and Charleston Southern. It happened when he was on the staff in places like Clemson and Georgia and, most recently, TCU.

West Virginia? Well, not so much, at least not recently. For the most part of late, when the Mountaineers faced a crucial game or series late in the season it was important only in the sense of salvaging something - a winning record, a berth in a league tournament - and not maintaining excellence.

This year is different.

West Virginia faces Mazey's last team, TCU, in a three-game series beginning today at Appalachian Power Park. It's the next-to-last series of the regular season, and there is plenty on the line.

The Mountaineers (29-20, 11-7 Big 12) are tied for first place in their new league. They have already clinched a spot in the eight-team Big 12 tournament, but are playing for the league's regular-season title. They are playing for an NCAA tournament berth.

It's just different, in other words. Mazey knows it, and he's trying to impress that upon his team.

"Mediocre teams can show up when they want to and play well some days and not so well others,'' the first-year WVU coach said. "But if you're going to prove yourself as a winner, you can't take days off.''

The Mountaineers can't take any days off this weekend. TCU (23-24, 8-10) has slumped a bit this season, but Mazey spent the last six years there and knows the Horned Frogs are talented.

"They still have some of the best pitching in the country. They can throw a shutout even when their best guy isn't pitching,'' Mazey said. "And if their hitting catches up to their pitching - which it always does - they could be the best team on our schedule.''

The teams play three games this weekend, the first at 6:30 p.m. today. Saturday's game is set for 4 p.m. and the finale is at 1 p.m. Sunday.

West Virginia has won three league series in a row, including last weekend's over then-No. 10 Oklahoma. They've done it, Mazey contends, because they haven't gotten caught up in their success and have continued to treat every play as if it was the most important of the game or the season.

And that has to continue.

"You can't take a pitch off. You can't take an at-bat off,'' he said. "You have to treat every fly ball or every ground ball as important.''

After this weekend's series with TCU, West Virginia has a single game against Marshall scheduled Tuesday in Beckley. That's followed by the final series of the season beginning Thursday at Oklahoma State.

The Big 12 tournament then begins the following Wednesday, May 22, in Oklahoma City.

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.

 


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