Mental Approach

WVU head baseball coach Randy Mazey is concentrating on the mental approach in rallying his team from a season ending losing skid, but he's also making sure that his team is physically prepared for the Day One meeting with Kansas in the Big 12 Baseball Championship.

Mazey reflected on a season of streaks ("we won a lot, we lost a lot, we won a lot and we lost a lot"), but noted that he is focusing on the way his team performed overall, and their approach to Wednesday's opener in getting his team back on the winning track.

"It's more of a mental thing," he said in analyzing the issues to be addressed that contributed to the Mountaineers' seven-game losing skid. "We feel like we have a really good team. But that's what the Big 12 is. When you go on the road, you play against Top 25 teams. I don't think we are playing badly. Our RPI (30 as of Sunday) reflects we are playing well, and the Big 12 is the second-ranked league in the nation."

The RPI is a key in West Virginia's case for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, which begins the last week of May. WVU's overall record isn't great, but its current RPI of 30 is better than all but three teams in both the ACC and the Pac 12.

"You never know what you need to get in. It depends on what happens around the country," Mazey said, highlighting one of the oft-overlooked aspects of the RPI. "Just like they say about boxing or the MMA, you don't want to leave it in the hands of the judges. You want to go for the knockout. Crazy things have happened in the past. But being in the Big 12 and being in the second ranked conference will help us."

Of course, crazy things can happen in both directions. Mazey recalled that in one of his seasons at East Carolina, the Pirates nabbed an at-large bid with an RPI of 52. And while Mazey wasn't going to make any predictions, he did indicate that he felt good about WVU's chances, although he is going to go to Oklahoma City feeling the need to win a couple of games to solidify West Virginia's case.

"Some people will have to pitch on short rest. We are fighting to get in, so we are going to do what we have to do to win a couple of games here. Barring any rainouts or anything unforseen, we'll go Musgrave, Vance and Means [as the first three starters]. You have to change their routine a little bit, but they are young kids and very resilient. Most pitchers pitch on every five days in pro baseball, so this is something they need to learn how to do."

In moving up the starters another day (they also did so in the series against Texas Tech, which was a Thursday-Saturday affair rather than the normal Friday-Sunday set), Mazey noted that adjustments to their throwing regimens were already in place to account for the loss of recovery time.

"We take really good care of our pitchers and monitor how much they throw. Some guys use a lot of effort to throw, and some don't use as much, so that come into play, but we are very scientific on when we throw guys and their routines," Mazey explained.

Mazey and his staff are also giving the team Sunday off from any baseball activities as they bus from Lubbock to Oklahoma City, as he's cognizant of the need for some recovery time. The team will also practice early on Monday and Tuesday to get ready for Wednesday's early first pitch (10:00 a.m. Easter/9:00 a.m. Central).

"I think that will help us a little bit," Mazey noted. "Not too many teams play their last seven on the road, and not many played 13 home games like we do. I know for sure we are in the Top 25 in toughest schedule in the nation, and our kids have done really well against that."


Mazey noted that this year's West Virginia team echoed the finish of the Jayhawks a year ago.

"We are eerily similar to where Kansas was last year. We swept them in Beckley, and then they beat us in first round of conference tournament after they had lost six in a row to end the season."

Kansas went on to make the finals of the Big 12 championship a year ago, a result that Mazey has no doubt pointed out to his team.

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Despite the losing streak, Mazey is sanguine about his team's chances in Oklahoma City.

"I don't think we have any doubt we are going to win that first game. We have a lot of confidence in playing on the field in Oklahoma City. Our last game we wound up in a dogpile [at home plate after beating Oklahoma State], so we will go in with a ton of confidence."

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