Penn State did something on Wednesday that very few teams have achieved: defeat West Virginia on its own baseball diamond.
The Nittany Lions mashed in Morgantown, logging eight runs on 10 hits, half of which went for extra bases. It also broke a major trend, as the Mountaineers hadn’t lost a midweek non-conference game at home since May 9, 2017 to, coincidentally, the Penn State Nittany Lions.
WVU has a lot to feel good about so far this season. It has already outshone expectations, sitting tied for fifth in the Big 12 with NCAA Tournament ambitions clearly in its sights.
At the same time, skipper Randy Mazey wants his team to keep things in perspective. When it was apparent that his team was going to play well during the campaign, he maintained that he wanted his players to think and practice like they weren’t performing.
That is to prevent results like Wednesday’s, which saw a historical rival celebrate on the Mountaineers’ home diamond.
“That’s good for them to listen to the other team celebrating and hooting and hollering and laughing,” Mazey said. “That’s exactly what our group needs, to see what it feels like to lose on your home field in a midweek game and you haven’t done much of that.”
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Penn State came to Morgantown as a heavy underdog, barely slotting into the top 150 in the NCAA RPI rankings. That marks WVU’s fourth quadrant 3 game of the season, and its second loss.
“Hopefully that will teach them that it doesn’t matter who you play,” Mazey said. “It doesn’t matter who the best team is, it matters who plays the best, and they smashed the ball tonight.”
WVU has a similar opponent in Kansas, and opens a three-game series with the Jayhawks in Lawrence on Friday. KU ranks No. 145 in the RPI and stands last in the Big 12, having won just two games out of 12 so far.
The upcoming series is crucial for the Mountaineers after dropping their last two weekends in the Big 12. With a sweep, WVU could lock up a ticket to the Big 12 Tournament in Arlington, Texas, while improving its already-solid NCAA Tournament resume. Even taking two wins out of the weekend could help in both respects, while getting WVU back on the winning track in the Big 12.
Dropping its third straight league series would definitely hurt, however, and the Jayhawks have shown they are capable of doing that.
“I just told them, look at the standings. Kansas has won two games. If you go down there and think it’s going to be easy, the same thing [as Wednesday night] is going to happen to you,” Mazey said. “It’s inevitable, so we better go down there and think Kansas is exactly what they are — capable of beating us every time we play them.”