After going just 3-5 in during an 11 day, eight game road trip early March, the West Virginia baseball team has built some much needed momentum over the past two weekends.
In back-to-back weekends, the Mountaineers have come out on the winning end of a three-game series, taking two out of three games against both Baylor and Jacksonville, improving their record to 12-9 on the current campaign.
“It really helps, because I think we had lost a couple of series in a row coming into this,”West Virginia head coach Randy Mazey said. “College baseball is so tough to beat somebody three times, so winning series is what gets you into the postseason.”
West Virginia has the same record through 21 games as it did last season. A season in which the Mountaineers finished and came one win away from from its first NCAA Tournament since 1996, losing to TCU in 10 innings in the Big 12 title game.
Tonight, the Mountaineers have a chance to boost their resume for an NCAA Tournament berth as they take on rival Pitt in the Backyard Brawl.
With only four players on the roster originally from the state of West Virginia, the Backyard Brawl is a rivalry that some players don’t fully know quite yet.
“They don’t know the rivalry as well as the fans do,” Mazey said. “They hear a lot about it.”
Though the majority of the team may not know the full history and significance of this rivalry, but they are aware of the Backyard Brawl’s importance to the state of West Virginia and how critical it is to get a win over the Panthers.
“It means a lot to this state,” West Virginia sophomore third baseman Darius Hill said. “It’s just really important every year to get that win against them.”
The Panthers come into tonight’s game with a record of 11-10 and winners of three straight, including three out of their last five.
If West Virginia has shown anything this year is that it's capable of pulling out victories in tough environments on the road.
The Mountaineers defeated the defending national champions, Coastal Carolina twice on the road and won a three-game series over a then 10th-ranked Baylor team two weeks ago. Prior to that, the Bears were 10-1 at home.
With a powerful batting lineup highlighted by senior first baseman Jackson Cramer who leads the team with four home runs this season, and some depth on the mound, West Virginia will look to keep building its momentum from the past two weeks and avenge last season’s 4-1 loss to Pitt at home.
Freshman right-hander Isaiah Kearns will take the mound for the Mountaineers tonight, looking to improve to 3-0 on the year and deliver a victory for not only the team, but the whole state as well in this rivalry.
“We’ll get excited to go up there and play and hopefully have a good game up there,” Mazey said.