This Week's Notebook
An overdose of West Virginia University sports notes make up this week’s Campus Connection …
- Congratulations are in order to West Virginia University senior associate head coach Tom Bradley for his induction into the Western Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame last weekend.
Induction ceremonies took place at the Sheraton Four Points Hotel in Cranberry, Pa.
Joining Bradley in this year’s class of inductees was long-time Brashear High football coach Ron Wabby, who sent WVU two outstanding quarterbacks in Major Harris and Rasheed Marshall during his outstanding coaching tenure.
For that, Wabby deserves a few additional votes, as far as I’m concerned.
- An athlete with West Virginia University ties is developing into one of the rising stars in U.S. distance running.
Clara (Grandt) Santucci, a former two-sport All-American at WVU, won last Saturday’s Pittsburgh Marathon with an Olympic Trials qualifying time of 2:32:25, becoming the first American woman since 2009 to win that race.
Santucci’s marathon debut came in Boston three years ago, in 2011, when she was the third American to cross the finish line. She also had a strong marathon performance in Chicago, where she finished ninth overall.
The Doddridge County native, who runs professionally for Saucony, picked up $15,000 in prize money for Saturday’s performance in Pittsburgh: $8,000 as the female winner; $4,500 as the top American finisher; $1,500 for her Olympic Trials qualifying time; and $1,000 as the top Pennsylvania resident.
Santucci placed seventh at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials and was the first alternate for the U.S. team that year.
Another local runner from WVU, Aubrey Moskal, has also qualified for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials in the marathon with her performance last fall at the Marshall Marathon in Huntington.
- Speaking of distance running, the word I am getting is that next year veteran West Virginia University women's cross country coach Sean Cleary could have his strongest group since at least 2008, when his Mountaineer women’s team placed fourth at NCAA nationals.
Cleary will have Connecticut transfer Allison Lasnicki, Canadian national team member Jillian Forsey, state distance star Maggie Drazba from St. Mary’s (who is sitting out this year), all-regional performer Kelly Williams and emerging distance star Millie Paladino from Morgantown, who recently signed with WVU after posting the nation’s second-fastest mile time and third-fastest 3,200-meter time.
Paladino also recently won the high school mile at Penn Relays and is considered one of the top distance recruits in the country.
A wild card for Cleary is senior Kaitlyn Gillespie, a two-time All-American who has been injured the past two seasons. She is currently petitioning the NCAA for a sixth season of eligibility.
- Look for an announcement sometime this week from the Big 12 Conference on this year’s Big 12-SEC Challenge. Mountaineer basketball will have a home game this year after playing at Missouri last season.
- The Big 12 meetings are going on this week in Phoenix, Ariz., and among those from WVU attending this spring's yearly session are Director of Athletics Oliver Luck, football coach Dana Holgorsen, men's basketball coach Bob Huggins and women's basketball coach Mike Carey.
- It was great getting an opportunity to visit with some of the former WVU baseball players who returned to campus for last weekend’s Varsity Club Alumni Weekend.
One of the former players I caught up with was catcher Eric Petho, a Bellaire (Ohio) St. John’s High product who is now living in St. Clairsville, Ohio. Petho played for late WVU coach Dale Ramsburg in the 1980s, and he had a great story to tell about the Rammer.
Petho was sitting on the bench during a game at Hawley Field and was having a detailed conversation with one of his teammates when a perturbed Ramsburg walked down to where Petho was sitting and asked him if he knew what the score of the game was. Petho said he wasn’t sure, so Ramsburg ordered him to go back behind the dugout and look for a foul ball that the coach said had landed in someone’s yard.
“Don’t come back until you find it!” Petho recalled Ramsburg telling him.
Petho spent the better part of three innings searching for that lost baseball in his West Virginia uniform until Ramsburg finally ordered him to return to the dugout.
“Turns out there wasn’t even a foul ball back there,” Petho laughed. “He just sent me back there to get me the hell out of the dugout.”
A lesson learned, for sure.
- There were several impressive notes from Sunday’s series-clinching victory over 11th-ranked Texas, according to WVU baseball sports information director Grant Dovey:
> Longhorn pitchers failed to strike out a Mountaineer hitter during Sunday’s game, marking just the third time since 2005 that that has happened. Texas hurlers last failed to register a K against Baylor in 2008 and Nebraska in 2005.
> West Virginia’s 12 runs represented only the fifth time since 2009 that Texas pitchers have allowed 12 or more runs in a game.
> And, West Virginia’s back-to-back series wins against Texas in 2013 and 2014 marks just the seventh time since 2003 that a Big 12 team has managed to do so.
Here’s more on WVU baseball …
- West Virginia’s RPI has jumped to 22 following Sunday’s 12-6 win over Texas, according to the baseball website WarrenNolan.com. The Mountaineers’ have a 15-13 record against RPI Top 100 teams with seven regular season games remaining against Top 50 opponents.
Following Tuesday’s game against No. 126 Virginia Tech in Princeton, West Virginia will face No. 36 Kansas in Lawrence and No. 47 Maryland in College Park before wrapping up the regular season in Lubbock, Texas against No. 16 Texas Tech.
West Virginia is currently playing the 30th-toughest schedule in the country, according to Warren Nolan.
Boyd’s World, another website that evaluates college baseball RPIs, has the Mountaineers at No. 24 and in its “RPI Needs Report” states that they have already done enough to finish the regular season with an RPI of 45 or higher.
To remain in the Top 32, West Virginia will need at least one more victory, according to Boyd’s World, and to reach the Top 16 the Mountaineers will have to come up with at least six more wins.
The only real drawback to West Virginia’s post-season resume, as far as I can tell, is its 9-8 record in Big 12 play. To be safe for NCAA tournament at-large consideration, it would be beneficial for the Mountaineers to finish above .500 in the nation’s No. 2-ranked baseball conference.
- Corky Palmer, former Southern Mississippi baseball coach who once led the Golden Eagles to a College World Series appearance in 2009, used to look at two categories on the stat sheet to determine how good his team was playing, says WVU football SID Mike Montoro, who used to work for Palmer at Southern Miss.
First, Palmer would look at the difference in batting averages between his team and their opponents, and if the difference was between 30 or 40 points in their favor, that was a good sign for his guys.
Another important statistic he looked at closely was team-fielding percentage.
Well, Randy Mazey’s 2014 Mountaineers get check marks in both of those key areas. After taking two of three from Texas last weekend, the Mountaineers are now batting 41 percentage points higher than their opponents - .293 to .252.
Also, last week West Virginia was ranked 21st in the country in fielding percentage at .976.
In today’s dead-bat era of college baseball, Palmer says a good staff ERA should be somewhere around 3.00. West Virginia’s team ERA is also close that mark at 3.33 heading into Tuesday night’s game against Virginia Tech.
That’s an interesting way to evaluate a college baseball team, to say the least.
- The San Diego Padres recently reinstated former Mountaineer shortstop Jedd Gyorko to their 25-man roster after he was granted paternity leave to observe the birth of twin sons.
Gyorko has gotten off to a slow start so far this year, hitting .162 with two home runs and 11 RBI through 30 games. However, Gyorko has hit safely in each of his last four contests, including slugging a two-run home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday.
San Diego is currently fourth in the National League West Division with a 14-18 record.
Meanwhile, former Mountaineer David Carpenter continues to thrive in a late-inning relief role for the Atlanta Braves. Carpenter, a right-handed pitcher, is leading the Braves with six holds while currently boasting a 2.25 earned run average in 14 relief appearances so far this season.
The Braves are in first place in the NL East standings with a 17-13 record.
- Despite LeSean McCoy’s assessment of the New York Jets quarterback situation, Michael Vick says Geno Smith is the team’s starting quarterback, according to a story in last Saturday’s Newark Star-Ledger.
The free agent quarterback was recently signed to compete with Smith for the Jets’ starting job.
Last year as a rookie, the former Mountaineer standout completed 55.8 percent of his passes for 3,046 yards and 12 touchdowns with 21 interceptions in leading New York to an 8-8 record.
"Ultimately our goal is to try to help Geno become the best quarterback that he can be. Myself and (third-stringer Matt Simms) are all trying to put him in a position where he can get better from Year One to Year Two,” said Vick.
Smith was the first rookie quarterback in Jets history to pass for more than 3,000 yards in a season.
- It is quite clear that all West Virginia University sports programs have received a substantial boost in interest and enthusiasm since the Mountaineers joined the Big 12 Conference two years ago, but perhaps the two sports impacted the greatest so far have been women’s basketball and baseball.
Both have experienced a dramatic increase in attendance, interest, and national exposure since WVU joined the Big 12, and here is another metric to add to the equation - women’s basketball and baseball both posted very strong numbers on the free live video streams the athletic department produced this season for West Virginia University’s official website, WVUsports.com.
There were a total of 45,286 views for women’s basketball’s 13 live events originating from the WVU Coliseum, including a record 14,722 who logged on to watch the Mountaineers close out the regular season against Kansas.
That averages out to 3,483 views per game for the women.
And baseball’s viewership has been equally impressive. There have been 39,667 total views for West Virginia’s 14 home dates so far this year with one more game scheduled to stream on Tuesday night against Virginia Tech in Princeton.
That averages out to 2,833 views per game.
Combine that with the 41,706 who showed up for women’s basketball home games this year, and the 16,470 who came to watch WVU baseball in Morgantown and Charleston, and it’s clear there is a buzz going on in the Mountain State right now for those two sports.
And, yes, a lot of that can be attributed to West Virginia’s membership in a very strong Big 12 Conference.
- Finally, West Virginia University Director of Athletics Oliver Luck was among the VIPs invited to attend this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington, D.C.
Director Luck sat at the Thomson Reuters table with son Andrew.
Others with state ties at Washington’s premier social event included: Sen. Joe Manchin and his wife Gayle, who sat at The Hill table, singer Brad Paisley, who sat at the CBS table, Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burwell, a Hinton, W.Va. native, and Jim Smith, former editor of the Charleston Daily Mail and current President and Chief Executive Officer of Thomson-Reuters.
Have a great week!
Baseball: Randy Mazey Mic'd Up
Around the Horn: Episode 2
Spring Football: Rushel Shell
Spring Football: KJ Dillion
Baseball: Penn State Hightlights
Football: Tony Gibson Spring Update