Mountaineer bats catch fire before hosting No. 10 Texas The Gold and Blue Nation Podcast

West Virginia’s bats were on fire in Kansas this weekend, smashing 10 homers as the Mountaineers won its third Big 12 series of the season over the Jayhawks. Next week, though, they have a big test when they welcome the biggest bats in the league to the Mon’ in the struggling — but still formidable — Texas Longhorns. Will West Virginia take the ‘Horns down, just like they’ve done throughout their time in the Big 12? Ryan Decker and Sam Coniglio take you through WVU’s exciting three-game series against KU, then look ahead to what is sure to be a fireworks display at a packed house in Morgantown to start May.  Subscribe on your preferred podcast platform to have future episodes delivered to you. Gold and Blue Nation is the local leader for Mountaineer sports news, producing comprehensive coverage on TV and online. Download the free Gold and Blue Nation app via your preferred app store so you’re never more than a touch away from our WVU sports reporting, highlights and archived shows.

Kevin Dowdell has worn many hats for West Virginia in 2022.

Often, he is in the dugout keeping morale high, shouting to his teammates and tossing baseballs around to keep energy up. Other times, he gets the call from skipper Randy Mazey to pitch some key innings in relief late in games.

But on Wednesday night, he wore a cowboy hat emblazoned with “American badass” after hitting a game-tying home run into the Monongalia County Ballpark parking lot — his first plate appearance since April 17.

“That’s what he is capable of doing, and it was pretty conducive to that matchup,” Mazey said. “It wasn’t just a homer, but it was a really, really calm at-bat in a big moment. We try to get guys to do that all the time.”

Dowdell joined the program in November as a junior college signee. Right from the beginning, Mazey touted his versatility as a two-way player, projecting him as a potential starting arm and a middle-of-the-order hitter.

At the season’s start, though, it was clear that Dowdell’s role on the team was far from solid. WVU’s starting nine in the lineup has remained largely the same throughout the season with the exception of some rotation at catcher, while an abundance of arms and uncertainty in the rotation forced the coach to do some shuffling in the pitching staff.

Mazey’s squad this season is perfect for a player like Dowdell, who hasn’t quite earned his way into either the starting nine or rotation yet. With weapons like the speedy Ben Abernathy or the big bat of Nathan Blasick on his bench, he is no stranger to the late-inning pinch.

For that reason, Dowdell has seen plenty of time on the diamond in his first season at West Virginia. He has pitched 4.1 innings so far this season and made 19 plate appearances, with the bulk of both of those coming in late-game situations.

Still, most of his time is spent in the dugout waiting for his name to be called. Even then, he often doesn’t know what he’d be put in the game to do, so he does his best to stay in the game however he can while he waits.

One way he does this is by regulating the team’s morale in the dugout. He feeds balls to the players running off the field and gives out high-fives, doing his best to keep the energy level up and keep himself focused for nine innings.

“I like to make sure everybody’s having fun, make sure everybody’s smiling and staying in the game,” Dowdell said. “Keeping the excitement level up, that’s one of the things I take pride in doing.”

His main focus this season, of course, is keeping his skills crisp. Mazey will likely keep calling his name to give some crucial work on the field for the Mountaineers, and he has to stay ready for it.

“I’m just going to continue to do whatever I can do to help the team win,” Dowdell said. “If that’s pitching, running bases, coming in to hit in the ninth inning, that’s just what I’m going to do.”

Even if, like on Wednesday, he doesn’t know he’ll get the call until it comes.

“At that point, it’s just time to play ball,” Dowdell said.