Mountaineers to begin tourney play today

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – The West Virginia University baseball team is set to begin play in its inaugural Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship today, as it takes on sixth-seeded Kansas at 5 p.m. at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in its first of three games in round-robin play.

The tournament, which originally slated to start on Wednesday, was pushed back a day due to the disastrous EF-5 tornado that ripped through Moore, Okla., on Monday afternoon.

Because of the delayed start, administrators chose to switch the format from a double-elimination bracket to pool, which will place seeds No.1, 4, 5 and 8 in one pool and seeds No. 2, 3, 6 and 7 in the second pool.

The winner from each pool will then advance to Sunday’s title game that is set for 2 p.m.

“I think the change in format actually helps us,” coach Randy Mazey said. “You don’t go into an elimination game on Friday. You feel like you have a chance to win no matter how the first game goes. It is going to come down to a three-game series. We’ve won several series in the Big 12 this year, and this is just another one that you have to play different teams throughout.”

Because of the changes, the Mountaineers will square off against the Jayhawks on Thursday, TCU on Friday and Oklahoma State on Saturday.

The changes will also affect WVU’s projected pitching rotation, as Dan Dierdorff is expected to get the nod from Mazey in game one, while Big 12 Pitcher of the Year Harrison Musgrave will be on the hill against TCU.

“They switched the schedule on us, so we are going to go back and switch the schedule on them,” Mazey said. “We are going to match up certain pitchers against certain teams, so we are going to throw Dan Dierdorff against Kansas, and we are going to use Harrison (Musgrave) in our second game against TCU. It is something that we as coaches have talked about, and we have involved both pitchers in the decision. We are going to go into it very confident.”

In Dierdorff’s start against the Jayhawks on April 27, the senior righty allowed three runs on seven hits in a complete game 4-3 victory.

“When you get to the end of the year, seniors have a way of playing better later in their careers – that is why they become seniors,” Mazey said. “Their experience really helps them out. I don’t think he will get caught up in the big crowd and the big stadium. He has been around for a while, and he will be focused.”

In the regular season against Kansas in Beckley, WVU swept three-game series with three one-run wins. The pitching staff went 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA in 30 innings, striking out 22 with only four walks.

Offensively, senior right-fielder Brady Wilson batted .417 with one run, one double, one triple and one RBI. Sophomore second baseman Billy Fleming hit .400 with three doubles and four RBIs.

The Big 12 Championship will have all games televised on Fox College Sports, while WVU’s three games can be heard on the affiliates of the Mountaineer Sports Network.