Before this past week, the West Virginia University baseball team criss-crossed the country, playing literally from coast to coast. It finally returned to the Mountain State and a more familiar environment — and finished the week in first place in the Big 12.
The Mountaineers’ weathered their month-and-a-half-long road trip, and their 4-1 win Sunday afternoon over Baylor at Appalachian Power Park gave them two over the weekend versus the Bears and three for the week. WVU (15-8, 2-0 Big 12) remains the only team undefeated in conference play.
Since WVU opened the season on Valentine’s Day, the Mountaineers have run onto the diamond from Myrtle Beach, S.C., to San Diego, Calif. First baseman Ryan McBroom said living out of suitcases for the first part of the season played a big part in WVU’s success in Charleston.
“Getting out and getting those wins on the West Coast were big,” McBroom said. “It got our confidence and team morale up. We kind of figured out who we were as a team, to go over there and beat those teams. We came back with a little swagger.”
WVU broke a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the sixth with back-to-back home runs by McBroom and left fielder Jacob Rice. McBroom’s homer, off an Austin Stone fastball that bounced off the center field wall, was his sixth of the season that also brought home center fielder Bobby Boyd. Rice’s, also off Stone, sailed over the left field wall.
The Mountaineers also got a complete game from starter Sean Carley. The right-hander moved to 5-0 this season, allowing one earned run — on an Adam Toth RBI single in the third — on five hits with two strikeouts and a walk.
“I’ve been working on some stuff with my fastball,” Carley said.“My fastball location my last couple of outings hasn’t been where it usually is. It kind of took me a couple of innings to find it, but I got it in there was able to throw strikes and get guys to get themselves out.”
Sunday’s game was just the third the Mountaineers had played this season on West Virginia soil. The first was WVU’s 6-3 win over Pitt on Tuesday at Hawley Field in Morgantown. The second came Friday in the Mountaineers’ 12-inning, 8-7 win over Baylor.
Saturday’s scheduled game was lost to inclement weather. Another game at Appalachian Power Park, originally scheduled for March 18 versus Marshall, was rescheduled for April 30 because of weather.
So, even when West Virginia finally returned to one of the stadiums it calls home this season, Mother Nature threw a monkey wrench into the schedule. Mazey said there was plenty around the team hotel to keep the players busy Saturday. He took his son Weston to Cabela’s and bought him a bow and arrow.
“That was an expensive rain delay for me,” Mazey said.
The day to rest helped, Mazey said, as did his team’s in-depth experience with life on the road.
“Our guys are used to adversity and used to not being comfortable,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “When you do throw a little comfort our way, our guys respond pretty well.”
WVU now has at least two games in the loss column over every Big 12 team. The only other team above .500 in conference play is Oklahoma at 4-2 following Sooners’ 4-3 loss Sunday to Kansas. Early momentum is key for a Mountaineer team picked to finish seven in the conference’s preseason poll.
And getting used to long road trips should help, too. WVU plays its next five on the road — Tuesday at Pitt, followed by a weekend series at Texas Christian and next Tuesday at Penn State. Road trips to Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas Tech also loom on the horizon.
But, Carley said, getting a few more games in front of friendly faces will be nice.
“It seems like every outing, I’m going out here second,” he said. “Anytime we have more of our fans in the stands, it’s a good day.”
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.