By TOM BRAGG
MORGANTOWN - West Virginia University baseball coach Randy Mazey is not interested in dwelling on the way the Mountaineers season ended on Sunday.
WVU saw a 9-1 lead evaporate over the game's final three innings, with Texas A&M's Bryce Blaum hitting a walk-off grand slam to eliminate West Virginia from the NCAA tournament on the Mountaineers' home field. An emotional Mazey was asked to give an opening statement in the postgame press conference and rather than recount all the things that went wrong on Sunday, he chose to label what happened Sunday as a disappointing end to an all-time great season of Mountaineer baseball.
"What if I'm speechless? It's hard to make an opening statement when you're speechless," Mazey said.
"All I can do is treat this like a win. Big picture, I think this is a win. You can't let one game, one pitch or one inning overshadow what our program has accomplished and how far we've come and what we've done. I'm not going to do that.
"I'm not going to let one inning of baseball or one game dictate my feeling about West Virginia baseball, because I couldn't be prouder of anybody in that locker room," he continued.
"Everybody on that team had a lot to do with us being here. You guys have been around, some of you longer than I have. This may go down as the greatest team that West Virginia baseball has ever put together. So, how could you let one pitch, or one at bat, or one inning overshadow what this group of kids has accomplished? I'm not going to do that. I'm going to walk out of here like we just had a major victory, because I think we did."
Consider what West Virginia accomplished this season. The Mountaineers won 38 games and were one of the best teams in one of the country's best baseball conferences, finishing as runner-up to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 conference tournament as the No. 4 seed.
WVU baseball was so good this season it was tabbed as the No. 15 overall seed in this season's NCAA tournament.
The fact that the Mountaineers were picked to host an NCAA regional seemed unthinkable during the Hawley Field era, but just a few years into the life of Monongalia County Ballpark, Mazey put together a team that got it done.
So now what happens? West Virginia loses key pieces in players such as senior catcher Ivan Gonzalez, senior right fielder Darius Hill and junior right-handed pitcher Alek Manoah - the 2019 Big 12 Pitcher of the Year and, by the time you read this, likely a very rich man after being selected in the first round of Monday evening's Major League Baseball draft.
Finding a new ace for the pitching staff will be high on Mazey's to-do list.
Once the dust settles from the MLB draft, it will be easier to look ahead knowing exactly who is coming back for the Mountaineers, but the obvious choice here seems like junior left-hander Nick Snyder.
He was outstanding as West Virginia's mid-week starter in 2019 but inconsistent down the stretch during appearances in the Big 12 and NCAA tournament. Junior Kade Strowd, sophomore Jackson Wolf and freshman Ryan Bergert accounted for the majority of the Mountaineers' remaining innings pitched among players with starting experience other than Manoah and Snyder.
Sophomore Paul McIntosh, one of the bright spots for West Virginia on offense in 2019, was primarily a designated hitter for WVU this season, but was a catcher in the past and could slide behind the plate for the Mountaineers.
If that is the case, McIntosh would more than make up for the loss of Gonzalez's contributions at the plate, but it will be a hard act to follow on the defensive side of things.
The next recruiting class should provide another big boost in the talent and depth departments for West Virginia as well. Mazey pulled in the No. 38 recruiting class in the country according to Perfect Game, and that's after PG ranked the 2018 WVU class at No. 28. The 2019 season will always be special to Mountaineer baseball fans because it was the season the program made the leap under Randy Mazey, but it's not hard to envision a future where hosting NCAA tournament games isn't a once in a lifetime thing in Morgantown.
IT'S A SMALL WORLD: Duke starting pitcher Bryce Jarvis baffled the Mountaineers in a 4-0 win Saturday night in the NCAA tournament, and as it turns out Jarvis had a baseball connection to the Mountain State prior to Saturday's game.
Kevin Jarvis is Bryce's father and also a former major league pitcher. Guess where he made a stop during his time in the minor leagues?
After spending 1991 with the Princeton Reds, the elder Jarvis went 6-8 as a starting pitcher for the 1992 Charleston Wheelers team that lost in the South Atlantic League championship series. He would go on to appear in 187 games during a 12-season career spanning 10 different teams.