Two old coaching buddies will be reuniting in Charleston this weekend when West Virginia takes on TCU in an important three-game Big 12 series at Appalachian Power Park.
West Virginia coach Randy Mazey spent six years on Jim Schlossnagle’s Horned Frogs staff, helping TCU to 40-win seasons each year, including a 54-14 record in 2010 that featured a trip to the College World Series.
Since taking over at TCU in 2004, Schlossnagle has turned the Horned Frog program into one of the most respected in the country.
“It’s going to be really good to see everybody,” Mazey said earlier this week. “I got so close to those kids and they treated my family really well. My little son was the batboy there. Both of my kids were born there in Ft. Worth and they were Horned Frogs their entire life prior to us coming here.
“The coaching staff is tremendous friends of mine and it’s going to be good to see everybody, but when it comes to playing against them that is a little bit of a different story,” Mazey added. “You don’t like competing against your friends; when you’re kind of messing around, playing golf, cards or something like that that’s one thing, but when there is so much at stake and you don’t want anybody to lose, that makes it a little bit tougher.”
The Schlossnagle-Mazey tandem produced 269 wins and six consecutive NCAA tournament appearances from 2007-12, the Horned Frogs making Super Regional trips three out of the last four years and reaching the College World Series in 2010. Mazey admits he really grew as a coach while working under Schlossnagle.
“As a coach you take a little bit from everywhere that you’ve been and you kind of mold your own philosophy. I’ve learned a lot of things at TCU, Tennessee, Georgia, East Carolina and I’ve been around a lot of good people,” he said. “When you have your own program you take something from everybody and add a lot of your own philosophies because you have to run your own program.”
Mazey said the parts of the game Schlossnagle really helped him were actually outside the white lines.
“Coach Schlossnagle is a manager of the program,” Mazey said. “It’s not just on the baseball field teaching them how to hit curveballs and field backhands … it’s alumni, it’s community, it’s fundraising, it’s getting to know people and presenting your program the right way in the community and prior to me going there, I was all about wins and losses. What do I have to do to have a great season? He is a manger of the entire program and that’s what I’ve tried to do here. I want to get the alumni involved and get a lot of excitement in the community about the program and that’s all stuff he is really, really good at.”
Mazey thought he matched well with Schlossnagle during the time the two were together at TCU.
“We complimented each other really well in the dugout, in the office, and I think we made each other better,” said Mazey. “My experience with him … he kind of got me jump-started in the parts of the game that I needed to focus on and I think I’m a better coach because of it.”
As for this weekend’s series, both teams are seeking wins to improve their postseason status. Mazey’s Mountaineers are the surprise of the Big 12 right now sitting in a three-way tie with Oklahoma and Kansas State in first place with two weeks left in the regular season.
TCU, meanwhile, is seventh in the league with an 8-10 record, but the Horned Frogs have been playing better of late, taking two out of three from Baylor three weeks ago, winning the final game of the K-State series and recently claiming two out of three at USC last weekend.
Since mid-April, when the Horned Frogs took two out of three against No. 22 Oklahoma State, TCU has won nine of its last 14 and is now just a game below .500 for the season.
“They’ve got the best pitching in the league,” said Mazey. “They are very capable of shutting you out on any given day, whoever starts or who comes in relief, so you have to play your best game every time to try and scratch out a couple of runs.”
Offensively, TCU has just one regular hitting over .300 (left fielder Boomer White at .329) and only two guys in the lineup with more than two home runs (Paul Hendrix and Jantzen Witte with three each), but Mazey said the Horned Frogs have been hitting better of late.
“They’re very capable offensively. They’ve got good hitters in their lineup from top to bottom, they’re just not all having great years right now,” he said. “In typical TCU fashion, they always swing the bats better at the end of the year than they do at the beginning. They go out to USC last weekend and they scored some runs and once their hitting catches up with their pitching, which it always does, then they could potentially be the best team on our schedule.”
The Mountaineers are fourth in the Big 12 in team batting at .282 and have four hitters in the lineup above .300, led by junior third baseman Ryan Tuntland’s .346 average. Junior Ryan McBroom leads the team and the Big 12 in home runs with 10.
West Virginia is 22-7 over its last 29 games, including winning nine of its last 11 with a series win over 10th-ranked Oklahoma last weekend in Charleston. It was only the second series win in school history against a ranked team, the last coming in 2003 when the Mountaineers took two of three from 15th-ranked Notre Dame in 2003. And last Saturday’s victory over the Sooners was West Virginia’s first versus a top 10-ranked team since beating ninth-ranked Ohio State in 1999.
It will be interesting to see if West Virginia can continue its winning ways heading into postseason play.
“We have put ourselves in the position of not taking any time off, taking pitches off, taking at bats off or taking days off. Mediocre teams can do that but winning teams, once you set that bar then you’ve got to live up to it,” said Mazey. “You’ve got to keep convincing them that every pitch when you are in the batter’s box means a lot. Every pitch you throw means a lot. Every time you are on defense you’ve got to make every play and that’s what championship teams do.
“These guys have created this for themselves based on how hard they’ve worked and everything they’ve done, and now they’ve got to live up to it.”
Friday night’s game is a Gold Rush and will get underway at 6:30 p.m. Saturday’s contest will start at 4 p.m. while first pitch for Sunday’s finale is slated for 1 p.m. Advanced tickets can be purchased by calling 304-344-BATS.
A free live stream (Kyle Wiggs and Ernie Galusky) of all three games will also be available at WVUsports.com.