WVU Sports with Mike Casazza

And now, respite

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Fairly ridiculous stuff in Oklahoma City. On Thursday, West Virginia again lost its starting pitcher and again shrugged it off. This time, the Mountaineers beat the Big 12 tournament’s top seed, though Kyle Davis again had the big bat in a 9-4 win against Texas Tech.

“I think it’s getting around the league to be careful when it comes around to the lineup to play West Virginia, because they’ll flip starting pitchers on you in the first inning,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “I swear we’re not doing that on purpose. We came down here thinking we have the two best starting pitchers in the Big 12, and they’ve thrown a combined two innings between them, and we are 2-0.”

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Why Art Briles was fired today

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“… and in one instance constituted retaliation against a complainant for reporting sexual assault.”

That’s tombstone stuff for the people involved. Baylor had no choice.

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CHRISTIAN TYLER RANDOLPH | Gazette-Mail WVU Head Coach Dana Holgorsen during WVU's Gold-Blue game at the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. on Saturday April 23, 2016.

 

Hey, we’re 100 days away from WVU v. Missouri, and here’s some serendipity: Bill Connelly’s WVU preview. It’s hopeful for some best-case and/or it’s-about-time scenarios, but it’s also realistic in that the best case doesn’t always happen to unworthy teams (for a reason) and that it just might not be WVU’s time for some or all things.

And then it gets to a pretty valid question.

It’s an interesting thought. What should WVU sustain in a conference that requires infinite travel, far removed from the recruiting base, with no nearby rivals? The Mountaineers have won either seven or eight games three times in their four years in the Big 12 and were lucky to win even four in the other year. If Holgorsen can put 2013 further in the rearview and establish a rhythm in the eight-win range, is that enough? If it isn’t … shouldn’t it be?

sudo

 

Say hello to Miki Sudo, the top-ranked woman in the world of competitive eating. She’s holding a 10-pound bowl of pho from the Las Vegas restaurant Pho 87. There you’ll find the Phozilla Challenge, when a competitor has 1,987 seconds — 33 minutes, 7 seconds — to finish the whole thing.

She learned about the challenge one day in in 2011 when she was at a basketball game with friends who were passing around their cell phones to share pictures of the bowl and tell their stories about how they tried and failed. Sudo was not impressed. She was incredulous. She tried it the next day and finished it. She banked $1,510, and she’s still the only one to ever do it.

So began Sudo’s career as a competitive eater, and this weekend she’ll be in Fairmont for the Pepperoni Roll Eating World Championship at the Three Rivers Festival.

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One down…

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Michael Grove is, like, the baddest man going in the Big 12 these days. Just mowing guys down at a prodigious rate and giving West Virginia’s baseball team a top-shelf starter late in the schedule, which has in turn bolstered the bullpen. Put together, he’s helped the Mountaineers appreciably so that they might survive and advance in the Big 12 tournament.

He lasted two batters and recorded but one out Wednesday … and the Mountaineers won.

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No. 42 was not one of the eight West Virginia players who made one of the Big 12’s all-conference teams Tuesday — not even honorable mention, which I think you made — and that doesn’t make a lot of sense.

The Mountaineers have won 14 of 17 games and need to make some noise in the Big 12 tournament this week to get to the NCAA regional for the first time since 1996. Fourth-place WVU opens the event with a 10 a.m. game today in Oklahoma City against fifth-place Oklahoma, which took two of three against the Mountaineers in the regular season, but the Sooners were also there when WVU turned around its seasons.

Engineering that turn? Ray Guerrini, No. 42, the catcher who’s started the past 17 games and is batting .345 since then … which is also his average for Big 12 play, when he also had the conference’s best on-base percentage.

“He’s been maybe the most important guy on the team,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “For him to be hitting .300 now, he’s always been a great defensive guy, but the way the offensive numbers have come along just turned him into a great player.

“Those all-conference selections, we’re not really allowed to do anything other than submit statistics. The people who vote don’t have any idea about his leadership ability, how he handles pitchers, what he does for our young guys or how good he is off the field. The only thing that comes through in an email, all that the other coaches know about, is the Ray Guerrini on the stat sheet.”

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Challenging game

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A year ago, West Virginia didn’t play a non-conference home game against a major conference team for the first time since the 2008-09 season. It was a truly questionable slate that was ultimately irrelevant because the Mountaineers didn’t need the strength of their opposition outside the Big 12 to make the NCAA tournament.

This year is going to be different, and WVU will play host to the Aggies in the annual interconference invitational. Texas A&M lost four starters and its top two scorers and three of its top four from last season’s Sweet Sixteen squad but still finds a place in some preliminary preseason top 25s.

The matchup helps the Mountaineers because they will play at Virginia on Dec. 3 this season.

Hall of Fame visitor

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Personally, I think Gary Jennings put it better, but the Gunslinger was on WVU’s campus yesterday. He was with his daughter, who’s a pretty good high school volleyball player, simply touring college possibilities before the start of her senior year.

Favre stopped by the football facilities, while the Mountaineers were working out, and found the time to take a lot of pictures. There’s an important aside here, too: Jovon Durante, kneeling with his arms crossed.