Mountaineers hosting NCAA baseball regional
CHARLESTON — West Virginia University’s baseball team found out it would be an NCAA regional host Sunday, and Monday the Mountaineers learned their seed and opponents for this weekend.
Texas A&M is the No. 2 seed in the Morgantown Regional and will play No. 3 Duke at 4 p.m. Friday at Monongalia County Ballpark. The Mountaineers (37-20) take on No. 4 seed Fordham at 8 p.m.
It will be the first time WVU has hosted NCAA baseball tournament games since 1955.
“It’s an opportunity to go to a venue that we haven’t been (to) before,” Ray Tanner, the chair of the NCAA Division I baseball committee and athletic director at the University of South Carolina, said. “Is that the deciding factor? Absolutely not. It’s based on merit of their program, and they were 6-2 in their conference series and that included wins against two really good programs in Oklahoma State, who won the Big 12 tournament, and Texas Tech, who won the regular season.
“They put themselves in a position to be one of the strongest teams in the country and as a result of that, they get an opportunity to host. The strength of schedule played a factor in that as well. (WVU) is a team that can certainly make some noise in this postseason.”
Fordham comes into the regional as the Atlantic 10 tournament champion with a 38-22 overall record. The Rams finished at No. 135 in the college baseball RPI according to NCAA.com and were swept in a season-opening, three-game series by Texas A&M - the only regular season meetings between any of the Morgantown Regional teams.
Texas A&M went 37-21-1 this season with a 16-13-1 record in the always tough Southeastern Conference to finish at No. 15 in the RPI. The Aggies won their opening game in last week’s SEC tournament against Florida in extra innings before falling to Georgia and Mississippi to be eliminated. In both losses, A&M pitchers did not allow a hit through the first seven innings before late runs against the Aggie bullpen sealed wins for the Bulldogs and Rebels.
Duke (31-25) finished at No. 44 in the RPI and was the No. 7 seed in last week’s Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, where the Blue Devils opened with a win against Notre Dame before No. 3 overall national seed Georgia Tech knocked them out the following round.
“I’m super excited for our community,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. ”(We have) been talking about Big 12 baseball coming to Morgantown for so many years, well here comes ACC and SEC baseball. I think that’s really cool for the community and the fans to get to see what other high quality and high caliber competition is all about. I’m super excited about our regional.”
Mazey said Monday that junior left-handed pitcher Nick Snyder would start Friday against Fordham while junior right-hander Alek Manoah, the Big 12 Pitcher of the year, will get the ball Saturday against either Texas A&M or Duke.
The winner of the Morgantown Regional will play the winner of the Nashville Regional, hosted by No. 2 overall national seed and SEC champion Vanderbilt, in the best-of-three Super Regionals for a spot in the College World Series.
WVU is one of three Big 12 schools selected as regional hosts along with Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.
The Red Raiders are the No. 8 overall seed while the Cowboys, who beat West Virginia on Sunday for the Big 12 tournament championship, are the No. 9 overall seed. Oklahoma State’s games will be played in Oklahoma City at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, site of last week’s Big 12 tournament, due to recent heavy rains in Stillwater making the surface at OSU’s Allie P. Reynolds Stadium unplayable.
Baylor also made the 64-team field in the Los Angeles Regional, hosted by No. 1 overall seed UCLA, where the Bears play Loyola Marymount on Friday. TCU was one of the last teams to get in the field with an at-large bid. The Horned Frogs take on California in the Fayetteville Regional, hosted by Arkansas.
″(The Big 12) an extremely strong conference,” Tanner said. “I think it had a little bit of an ebb and flow to it as far as anybody dominating -- it changed courses a little bit -- but the Big 12 had a great run. Kansas didn’t make the field but they stayed on the board for a long, long time. You talk about Texas Tech and Oklahoma State and West Virginia and the teams there -- TCU played their way in toward the last two or three weeks of the season.
“It’s an outstanding conference and has been that way for a number of years.”