MORGANTOWN — Hawley Field has been home to West Virginia’s baseball team since 1971, but few times in those 43 years have the Mountaineers hosted a more intriguing series than the one that will close it out.
The Mountaineers host one of the most iconic programs in all of college baseball in a three-game set beginning tonight, a series significant not just because of its timing as Hawley Field’s finale, but also because of its importance.
West Virginia (24-16 overall, 7-7 Big 12) hosts Texas (33-13, 10-8) with both positioning in the Big 12 standings and NCAA tournament ramifications on the line.
The first game is scheduled for 6 p.m. today, followed by contests at 4 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.
“Texas is Texas,’’ WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “It’s traditionally one of the best teams in the history of college baseball. It’s going to be a treat for our kids to play against them and a treat for all the fans to come out and see them play.’’
The Longhorns aren’t quite as elite this season as they have been many years — six national championships, 35 College World Series appearances, 53 NCAA tournaments and the winningest coach in college baseball history at any level in Augie Garrido — but Texas still packs a punch. The Longhorns are still in the Top 25 in every major poll and No. 15 in the Rating Percentage Index.
West Virginia, though, is in position to challenge Texas, and if the Mountaineers want to keep their hopes alive for an at-large berth in the NCAA regionals, this is a huge series. WVU is No. 26 in the RPI.
“We just can’t get caught up in the uniform they’re wearing,’’ Mazey said. “We just have to come out and play our game. Their pitchers have to throw it across the plate just like everyone else’s.
“As long as we do what we do, I like our chances.’’
Nearly as significant in some ways as the series itself is the closing of Hawley Field. The team is scheduled to move into a new $20 million-plus stadium across the Monongahela River at the University Town Centre next year.
Roughly 60 former players are scheduled to be on hand for at least some of the weekend’s games. Tonight, the first pitch will be thrown out by Carol Ramsburg, wife of the late Dale Ramsburg, who coached the Mountaineers from 1968 to 1994. On Sunday, the first pitch will be thrown out by Bill Hawley, the son of Roy “Legs’’ Hawley, for whom the field was named.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or email@example.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.