Big 12 Tournament Awaits

Big 12 Tournament Awaits

West Virginia's surprising third place finish in its initial season in the Big 12 baseball conference was built on the theme of "keep grinding" and nowhere was it more apparent than in Saturday's 5-4 win over Oklahoma State. With the victory, the Mountaineers locked up a third place finish in the league, and are now set to face Kansas in the opening round of the league tournament on Wednesday.

WVU will get to wait until the afternoon session to face the Jayhawks. The Mountaineers will be the home team in the 5:00 p.m. Eastern/4:00 p.m. Central showdown. League newcomer West Virginia (31-25, 13-11), selected last in the coaches' preseason poll, captured the No. 3 seed. The Mountaineers swept the Jayhawks in regular season play with each game decided by one run. This is the Jayhawks seventh championship appearance.

The Championship is played under a two-division, double-elimination format. The eight teams with the best league records (based on winning percentage) in regular season competition qualify for the event and are divided into two divisions with seeds 1, 4, 5 and 8 in division one and seeds 2, 3, 6 and 7 in division two. There is no cross-division play until two teams reach the championship game on Sunday.

Although head coach Randy Mazey said that playing for seeding was not a huge factor in his pitching rotation and lineup strategy during the final weekend of the regular season, he had to be pleased with the matchups. WVU faced the Kansas squad it swept earlier this year, and also has TCU and Oklahoma State on its side of the the bracket. WVU lost 2-1 series decisions to both of those squads, but the Mountaineers were competitive in the majority of those contests.

West Virginia will almost assuredly start a well-rested Harrison Musgrave against Kansas. The lefty, who has not pitched since May 11, will be counted on to give the Mountaineers a good start in the tournament. For the season, Musgrave is 8-1 with a 2.14 ERA in 13 starts. Currently he is riding a seven-game winning streak and has yet to lose in Big 12 play, posting a 5-0 record. In conference play, he has a 1.02 ERA, striking out 61 in 53.0 innings and has allowed just six earned runs.

Also playing a big role will be centerfielder Bobby Boyd, who returned to the top of the lineup for the finale against Oklahoma State and delivered three base appearances and three runs.

"We kind of go however Bobby Boyd goes," Mazey said. "If he's aggressive, running and doing his deal the team seems to respond to that."

Boyd's tablesetting is vital, as WVU, like most teams, plays much better when getting off to an early lead. The Mountaineers are 12-2 in the Big 12 when scoring first, but just 1-9 when the opponent jumps out on top.

The Mountaineers must also avoid the "miscue triple crown" – that is, errors, walks and wild pitches\passed balls\hit batters – in order to have success. WVU committed a league worst 84 errors this year while walking 205 hitters and putting another 74 aboard via HBP. Add in 32 wild pitches and eight passed balls, and there were plenty of free bases for opposing teams during the 2013 season. WVU did counter some of that with an impressive 26 pickoffs, but it's clear that in order to make a deep run into the league tournament, the Mountaineers can't commit errors or give league foes free bases or extra chances at the plate.

WVU remained in Oklahoma following the OSU series, and bussed to Oklahoma City on Sunday. The Mountaineers will have a couple of practices prior to their first game on Wednesday.

BlueGoldNews.com will be present for the tournament and will have full coverage of West Virginia's games, including photos, interviews, game recaps and more. Follow us on Twitter (@BlueGoldNews) for live coverage and commentary throughout the game. Fox College Sports will televise all the games until the final, which will air on FoxSportsNetwork.

Big 12 Baseball tournament bracket

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