WVU has faced Pitt more than any other team, and Randy Mazey wants to keep that trend going
Baseball’s edition of the Backyard Brawl won an exciting new chapter on Wednesday — a priority for WVU skipper Randy Mazey, who has made it his priority to continue writing the storied rivalry’s history during his tenure.
The Mountaineers tied the season streak with the Panthers in an 11-inning thriller at PNC Park, keeping the all-time tally in favor of WVU 111-93. After the game, Randy Mazey was happy for WVU fans to elbow Pitt supporters at the water cooler, as he puts it, because the rivalry is still very real for fans of both teams.
The story is a little different for the players on the pitch, however. Only three players in WVU’s starting roster on Wednesday were from West Virginia or Pennsylvania, the same number of Floridians who made the card.
“You kind of have to explain that to our guys because we don’t have a lot of kids from West Virginia on the team…so when you mention Backyard Brawl, those kids from Florida and Georgia, they don’t know what you’re talking about,” Mazey said.
Matches like the one on Wednesday, he adds, will make the rivalry strong again. The Panthers had won 11 of their previous games before entering PNC Park and were climbing the ACC standings after winning their last four conference series. On the other end, WVU had just dropped their first league series to No. 5 Oklahoma State at the end of a hot streak that propelled them into NCAA tournament conversation.
This set up a one-game two-team showdown with playoff implications on a big league diamond.
“Mountaineer fans get mad at me all the time when I say I really want Pitt to be good, and they’re good, and that makes me happy,” Mazey said. “Because it makes the rivalry better and stronger, and it makes the games better… It puts more implications on the game, you get better crowds and there are more RPI implications. There’s every reason in the world why I want them to be good and old Coach [Mike] Bell, a good friend of mine, should want the Mountaineers to be good.
West Virginia’s triumph is already impacting the RPI. Entering Wednesday, Pitt was three places ahead of West Virginia in the standings at No. 43 — on Thursday, the Mountaineers had passed the Panthers by seven places at No. 39, while Pitt slipped to No. 48.
Playing against Pitt is a long-term priority for Mazey. His ideal scenario is a series of three matches each season, like the 2022 edition of the Backyard Brawl: one match at Pitt’s Cost Field, one at Monongalia County Ballpark and one at PNC Park. So far this season, WVU has already faced Pitt at Cost Field, losing 9-6, as well as Wednesday’s matchup at the Pirates’ home.
If the story continues, Mazey and his Mountaineers would also have a statistical advantage with this 1-1-1 setup. WVU holds a 12-6 record over Pitt under Mazey, including two wins over the Panthers at PNC Park. On top of that, West Virginia has won all four of its games at the Pirates’ current home, including two additional wins over Penn State.
This type of success prompted Mazey to jokingly consider building a replica in Morgantown. Even beyond that unbeaten record, however, Mazey didn’t err in underestimating the importance of competing at a big league park.
“Before the game, we talk about the fact that every pitcher that went out there today stepped on the same rubber as Mariano Rivera and all the greats that ever pitched here,” Mazey said. “It’s pretty cool to say that you shared that rubber with some of these guys, and our guys who hit have to stand in the same batting box as the Barry Bondses, the McGwires, the Trouts and all the greats players who’ve ever played here, so that’s all cool, but when the game starts, it’s also about winning the game.