MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – When archivists and fans peek at West Virginia baseball’s historical stats in the future, they will see “2023” sprinkled across the page.
The season concluded Sunday with a loss to Kentucky in the elimination round of the Lexington Regional. While sights were set high as the Mountaineers gained momentum, head coach Randy Mazey reminded fans to cherish their special 2023 season.
On the surface, this season mirrored WVU’s memorable 1994 campaign. Both teams set a program-record with 40 wins. They each went 1-2 in Regional play, sandwiching a win between their two losses. The two head coaches – Dale Ramsburg and Randy Mazey – won Coach of the Year awards.
They are eerily similar, other than TikTok dominating players’ downtime instead of Tekken.
One major difference was the home ballpark. Since the move from Hawley Field to Monongalia County Ballpark, WVU has been capable of hosting multi-thousand person crowds. The program received a taste of that energy when it hosted a regional in 2019, but The Mon never buzzed like it did in the spring of 2023.
The program’s single-game attendance record was shattered May 6, when 4,387 fans watched the Mountaineers play Oklahoma. The program sold 10,671 tickets for that three-game series against the Sooners, which also stands as the attendance record for a series. A few weeks later, WVU announced the single-season totals from 2023 also set a program record with 59,894 fans crossing the turnstiles.
While they never received their moment to flaunt hardware in front of a record crowd, WVU backed into a three-team scrum at the top platform of the Big 12 podium on the second to last day of the regular season.
For the first time in its short Big 12 tenure, the Mountaineers earned a regular-season Big 12 title with a 15-9 conference record. It was also the first time since WVU joined the Big 12 that it secured 15 conference wins.
At the plate, the team as a whole set multiple program records. With a four-homer performance in the elimination-game victory over Ball State, WVU set the single-season home run record with 81 homers. They also destroyed two previous single-season free base records with 323 walks and 106 hit-by-pitches. No previous WVU team walked more than 257 times (2017), and the previous season-high hit-by-pitch total was 89 (2009).
A Mazey masterclass
There’s a reason Mazey was so emotional after the season-ending loss to Kentucky. This was his best team at West Virginia. The accolades and numbers check out.
West Virginia’s .294 team batting average was the best since Mazey took over. As previously mentioned, he won more games this season than in any other year at WVU.
In his 11th season as the program’s patriarch, he earned his second Big 12 Coach of the Year Award. He was the first WVU coach to win the Big 12’s edition of the award, and he joins two other coaches to win multiple conference Coach of the Year honors at WVU: Greg Van Zant (Big East – 1997, 2003) and Dale Ramsburg (Atlantic-10 – 1988, 1990).
The Mazey-Ramsburg-Van Zant club is quickly becoming the most exclusive grouping in baseball coaching statistics. Mazey’s 336th-career win came Saturday, and as it stands, is third all-time in wins as a WVU head coach. He passed Steve Harrick (333 wins) last month. Ramsburg (529) and Van Zant (528) lead the list.
Notable individual records
Sophomore JJ Wetherholt became the first WVU player to ever win Big 12 Player of the Year in an astonishing season that may be the best single-season campaign in Mountaineer history. Wetherholt is the third WVU player to win a conference Player of the Year award, joining Mark Landers (Atlantic-10 – 1994) and Jarod Rine (Big East – 2003).
With a .449 batting average, he leads the all-time list previously ran by Dan DiBartolomeo (.439 – 2009 – 205 at-bats) and Braden Zarbinsky (.431 – 2020 – 65 at-bats). He also became the first player in WVU history to slug 10 homers and record over 20 stolen bases. He created a category of his own when he swiped his 30th stolen base in May.
Friday-starter Ben Hampton became the fifth WVU pitcher to start 16 games in a season, with the last pitcher to accomplish the feat being Alek Manoah in 2019. No pitcher has ever started 17 games in WVU history.
Righty newcomer Blaine Traxel also threw the most complete games in NCAA Division I.
Reliable reliever Noah Short set the program record for pitching appearances with his 73rd-career outing against Texas on May 20.
“Once the emotion of [Sunday’s loss] dies down, I think these guys will realize, and a lot of people will realize, that this was one of the best seasons any [WVU] team has put together,” Mazey said.