MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Randy Mazey’s West Virginia baseball team is playing at a very high level this season.
The Mountaineers (29-11, 8-4 Big 12) are nationally ranked, sitting at No. 17 in the Baseball America Top 25 and No. 18 in the D1Baseball.com Top 25 poll.
West Virginia, even more importantly, is also on top of the Big 12 Conference standings.
“It doesn’t matter where you’re at midway during the season, but it’s better to be in first than last, I do know that,” Mazey said Saturday after WVU claimed the top spot in the league standings.
With an 8-4 record in league play, the Mountaineers are in first place in the Big 12. This is believed to be the first time in recent memory, and possibly the first time ever, that West Virginia held sole possession of first place in the league standings entering the final week of April since the program joined the Big 12.
WVU holds a slight lead over Oklahoma State and Kansas State. The Mountaineers took two of three from each of these teams on the road already this season.
Not only does Mazey’s club hold the best record in conference play, but West Virginia owns the best overall record of any team in the Big 12 Conference.
The Mountaineers have never won a Big 12 regular season title in football, men’s basketball, or baseball. West Virginia baseball has finished no higher than fourth in the final standings since joining the conference in 2013.
West Virginia has played well and has a chance to extend its lead over the rest of the conference this weekend when it travels to last-place Baylor (15-25, 6-12 Big 12) for a weekend series. Mazey, however, refuses to let his team get caught up in the conference standings with still one month to play before the postseason begins.
“Overconfidence is the number one reason you get complacent. So, we’re not going to do that,” said Mazey.
In fact, West Virginia players and coaches will do their best to ignore the standings and the rankings, and play the same way many WVU teams play.
“We’re going to go into every game like we’re the underdog,” added Mazey. “We’ll play with that chip on our shoulder.”
Mazey has often spoken about his teams having a chip on their shoulders. After being snubbed from the NCAA Tournament field last year, Mazey pulled a poker chip out of his pocket to symbolize the chip they will play with throughout all of 2023.
“You got to keep reminding people, you know, that nationally our program hasn’t gotten a ton of respect,” said Mazey. “We’re always picked seventh or eighth in the league in the preseason poll. It doesn’t matter how good we think we are. Nationally, we’re just always fighting for that respect. So, that serves to put a chip on your shoulder.”
West Virginia undoubtedly remembers being left out of the 64-team field last season.
With the way WVU has played through the first 70 percent of its season, the Mountaineers are in a great position to make the NCAA Tournament this year. There is still one month’s worth of games to play, though.
While a conference tournament title is the only way to guarantee a spot in the national tournament field, winning a Power 5 conference’s regular season title is the next best thing. With 15 games left to play this year, West Virginia is on course to do just that.