MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - May is a crucial month for any collegiate baseball team. It is the squad’s last opportunity to earn needed victories and to close the door on upset attempts. It is the month when championship cards are punched and World Series dreams begin to take shape.
May also is the month when many seniors bid farewell to the loyal fans that have cheered them on to victory and through defeat; one last run around the bases before they move on to their next journey.
The West Virginia University baseball team is set to toast 10 seniors, including six redshirt seniors, this weekend, as the Mountaineers return to Morgantown’s Hawley Field after a four-game road trip and play host to BIG EAST foe Rutgers in their regular-season finale.
“This is an important weekend for the team, and this group of seniors will always remember this series because it is their last group of games in front of the home crowd,” WVU skipper Greg Van Zant said.
Since 2008, this group has accumulated 126 victories and competed in three straight BIG EAST championships, with a fourth invitation almost within reach. Since the Mountaineers joined the conference in 1996, only the ’99 senior class has appeared in four BIG EAST tournaments.
Poised for their final Hawley Field appearance are: Andy Berry, Marcus Broadwater, Grant Buckner, Colin Durborow, Mark Dvoroznak, Kevin Griffin, Jeremy Gum, Jonathan Hash, Justin McDavid and Matt Morrone.
“This group has really led by example,” Van Zant said. “They have carried our team, not just in productivity on the field, but also with their preparation and dedication. Without this class, this season could have been a disappointment due to all of the injuries we have had.
“The big thing is that they have each contributed in different ways, and they’ve all helped the team in their own unique way. Each has accepted his role and figured out how he can help the team within those boundaries. They’ve done a great job, and they epitomize what Mountaineer baseball is all about.”
Shortstop Buckner has saved his best for last. Assuming the role left vacant by All-America Jedd Gyorko, the Elkview, W.Va., native and preseason all-BIG EAST honoree paces the team with a .364 batting average. He is also tops in the conference in league-only batting with a .438 average. He was named the BIG EAST Player of the Week on May 9 and has landed on the honor roll several times this season.
Closing in on his last career conference series, he ranks fifth in the WVU all-time annals with 57 doubles. He also ranks seventh in career hits (224) and eighth in career RBIs (144).
Batting behind Buckner in the lineup and having just as strong a season is designated hitter Gum. A transfer out of Potomac State, the Bridgeport, W.Va., native is third on the team with a .348 batting average and paces the squad with 14 doubles. Through 100 career games with the Mountaineers, he shows 57 runs on 98 hits with 25 doubles and eight home runs.
Known for staking his claim at the plate, Gum has taken a conference-best 21 bean balls this season, a school record.
Fellow Potomac State transfer Griffin, one of the squad’s starting catchers, had one of the more memorable moments of the 2010 season, as his walk-off three-run home run in the regular-season finale against Villanova gave WVU a 3-2 victory and solidified the Mountaineers’ spot in the BIG EAST tournament.
Boasting a batting average of .269 this season, Griffin shows 37 runs in 227 career at bats, with 44 RBIs and seven home runs.
Center fielder Dvoroznak, having his best season at the plate since 2009, is batting .290 as a senior. A skilled defensive player with great speed, he shows 15 stolen bases in 17 career attempts.
Infielder Colin Durborow and catcher Justin McDavid also have been solid contributors. Durborow has hit .276 in 322 career at bats and boasts 58 runs on 89 hits, while McDavid, currently hitting .282, owns 86 career RBIs.
Right-handed pitcher Berry, a consistent starter for the Mountaineers this season, leads the Mountaineer rotation with a 7-3 record this season. He has started a team-best 13 games and has taken to the mound in conference series finales this year. The Virginia Beach, Va., native was named the BIG EAST Pitcher of the Week on April 18, after tossing his first career nine-inning complete game to lead the Mountaineers to an 8-1 victory at Notre Dame.
Fellow right-handed pitchers Broadwater and Hash, along with southpaw Morrone, have proven to be dependable situational pitchers for the Mountaineers. Broadwater has made seven mound appearances this season and has seen action in 31.2 innings for his career, while Hash is credited with two career saves. Morrone boasts a career 5.89 ERA and owns a 3.18 mark this season.
All three games this weekend will be video streamed through MSNsportsNET.com, with Kyle Wiggs calling the action and Ernie Galusky providing the analysis.
Friday evening’s game is the last “Dollar Night” of the season, with all tickets and select concessions just $1 each.
On the brink of accomplishing a feat not matched in 12 seasons - these 10 WVU seniors, each accomplished in his own way and together as a class - are poised for one last outing at Hawley Field and in front of the Mountaineer faithful.
West Virginia University baseball, Mountaineers, Greg Van Zant, Grant Buckner
Jason Butts: NCAA Championships Preview
WVU Varsity Club Football Reunion
Baseball: Ohio State Highlights
Ross Vance and Max Nogay: Ohio State Post-game
Randy Mazey: Ohio State Post-game
Around the Horn With Randy Mazey