MORGANTOWN — Ryan McBroom will never play in West Virginia’s new baseball stadium as a Mountaineer, so in terms of comparing the new with the old he’ll have only limited experiences.
“I guess the alumni games,’’ WVU’s senior first baseman said of the under-construction, $20 million ballpark scheduled to open next spring. “That doesn’t really count, though.’’
The thing about McBroom, though, is he’s kind of grown attached to West Virginia’s old park. And on Sunday he helped send it out in style.
McBroom and freshman designated hitter Jackson Cramer each had three hits, Taylor Munden drove in three runs and West Virginia again battered Texas’ renowned pitching staff, beating the No. 11 Longhorns 12-6 in the final Mountaineer game scheduled at Hawley Field.
The win gave West Virginia (26-17, 9-8 Big 12) a 2-1 series win over Texas (34-15, 11-10) for the second year in a row. It came in front of the second-largest crowd ever to watch a game at the 44-year-old ballpark, 2,237 on a sunny, windy day.
“Hawley Field has treated me great,’’ said McBroom, second on the team with a .357 average and far and away WVU’s leader this season in home runs and RBIs. “It was great to go out like this.’’
Over the weekend, Hawley treated most of the Mountaineers great. They had double-digit hits in all three games against a Texas pitching staff that came into the weekend ranked first in the Big 12. WVU won 5-3 on Friday and lost a 2-0 decision Saturday despite 11 hits.
“That says a lot about where we are right now,’’ second-year coach Randy Mazey said. “We got a lot of hits against a great pitching staff.’’
In a way — albeit a very small way — one wonders why West Virginia would ever want to leave Hawley Field after the outburst against the Longhorns. WVU had 36 hits and the Texas starters combined to pitch only 12 innings in three games. The Longhorns used 10 different pitchers over the course of the series.
On Sunday, the issue wasn’t entirely pitching, though. The wind was strong and gusting and, for the most part, blowing out. There was just one home run — Munden hit the last one ever out of Hawley in the fifth and probably didn’t need any wind, as hard as he hit it — but the teams combined for 26 hits and five errors.
“No lead is ever safe with the wind blowing out like that,’’ said Mazey, whose team trailed 2-0 but then scored nine unanswered runs over three innings. “We had to keep scoring and scoring and scoring.’’
John Means (6-1) had his second straight less-than-ideal start, but with the run support he got it didn’t matter that he gave up 11 hits and six runs (only three of them earned) while pitching into the seventh inning. Pascal Paul relieved Means and gave up just one hit in the rest of the seventh and eighth, then Sean Carley survived a walk to finish in the ninth.
“On a day like today, it was hard to throw many zeroes,’’ Mazey said.
The final out sent the home team into a rendition of Country Roads, a song that plays after each WVU win but one which the team doesn’t usually join. Mazey said he was waiting for the right time, and a win over Texas in the final game at Hawley Field seemed like that time.
In fact, the setting seemed a perfect summation of what West Virginia baseball has grown into in Mazey’s short tenure — moving from the Big East to the Big 12, larger crowds, a new stadium in the works.
“We were saving that [singing] for the right moment,’’ Mazey said. “We somehow had to thank everybody for coming.’’
The series, of course, might have closed Hawley Field, but West Virginia’s season is far from over. The Mountaineers have two more weekend road series left in Big 12 play — next weekend at Kansas and the following at Texas Tech — along with a couple of single midweek games. The first is Tuesday night against Virginia Tech in Princeton.
And after all of that (there is also a game at Maryland a week from Tuesday), WVU will play in the Big 12 tournament in Oklahoma City and then, the team hopes, in an NCAA regional. The Mountaineers could get there by winning the league tournament or by having a solid enough resume at the end of the season.
The weekend sweep of Texas certainly did not hurt that resume. The Mountaineers have been in the Top 30 of college baseball’s Rating Percentage Index for a few weeks now, and this one will put them close to the Top 20.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.