West Virginia takes accolades into Big 12 Tournament
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — West Virginia just claimed some big-time awards, with Randy Mazey named Big 12 Coach of the Year and Alek Manoah named the league’s Pitcher of the Year.
Now, the Mountaineers are looking for a team honor.
Fourth-seeded West Virginia (34-18) opens play in the Big 12 Tournament against No. 5 seed Kansas (31-24) Wednesday at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
The Mountaineers think they can claim their first Big 12 title on Sunday, and Manoah is one of the main reasons. The 6-foot-6, 260-pound right-hander had a 1.91 ERA and struck out 125 in 14 games. He is projected to be a high draft pick.
“It’s just his commitment, his competitiveness, his desire — all the synonyms that go along with winning, he’s got them,” Mazey said. “He’s a special talent with the pitches he throws on top of it. You combine all that stuff together, and that’s why you have the pitcher of the year.”
Mazey earned the coaching award after leading West Virginia to its best conference finish since 2013.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “What an award because it’s voted on by your peers. When you get an award like that, it means all that much more, you know. Special award. Most of the group I’m coaching amongst — to even think that it was even possible is beyond belief to me.”
Mazey will face plenty of roadblocks if he is to add a tournament title to his list of accolades. The field should be wide open — only two games separated the No. 4 seed and the No. 8 seed.
Top-seeded Texas Tech (36-15) had eight All-Big 12 selections, led by co-Player of the Year Josh Jung. The junior ranks in the top five in the Big 12 in seven different categories. He’s second in doubles, RBIs, walks and on-base percentage.
The Red Raiders open against No. 8 seed Kansas State (25-31) and pitcher Jordan Wicks. The conference Freshman of the Year had a 6-2 record and a 3.20 ERA.
Second-seeded Baylor features Davis Wendzel. The Big 12 co-Player of the Year led the conference with a .385 batting average and a .500 on-base percentage. The Bears (33-15) open against No. 7 seed Oklahoma (33-21).
No. 3 seed Oklahoma State has the highest RPI among Big 12 teams at No. 8. The Cowboys (32-17) open play Wednesday against sixth-seeded TCU (29-24). Jake Guenther, the conference Newcomer of the Year, leads the way for TCU. He reached base in his first 50 games — the third-longest streak in Big 12 history.
Oklahoma coach Skip Johnson has the seventh-seeded squad, but the Sooners have an RPI of 39, and by multiple ranking systems, the Big 12 is considered the second-best conference in college baseball. That’s why Johnson believes at least seven Big 12 teams should be in the running for NCAA Tournament berths. He believes his Sooners shouldn’t have to win at the conference tournament to advance.
“I would hope we wouldn’t have to win any,” he said. “If we’re really the No. 2 conference in the country, we wouldn’t have to win any. Just go play baseball.”
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP