WVU Sports with Mike Casazza

Here and gone

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enrollees

Say hello to the newly enrolled members of West Virginia’s football team. Davis, Brown, Johns, Loe, McDougle, Roberson Jr., Robinson, Sinkfield, Smith, Stills, Thurmond and Winfield are scholarship players. Twenty of the 21 players who signed in February are now enrolled. The exception is Lackawanna College’s Isaiah Hardy, and I’ve heard no bad news about him. (Update: Bah, forgot David Isreal. He signed and has not yet enrolled. I’ve heard no bad news about him, either.)

One name I want to point out: Jack Bueltel.

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That time already?

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The preeminent West Virginia football preseason magazine is available in stores today. You can also buy it online right here.

There’s a pretty deep roster of contributors, and combined they’ve covered virtually every angle. Actually, we’ve covered virtually every angle. I threw a few words in there, and I think “Guessing game” is my feature. So, consider this an endorsement. I carry one of these with me all season because the statistics and the opponent info is really useful, but the stories will get you through to the start of the season. The fact you can get your hands on one of these now means we’re getting close.

Get a look at this while you can

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I’m not sure how long West Virginia’s basketball office lets this live online, but, hey, offseason pickup games! You’ll see a lot of people you recognize in there, and you’ll no doubt take pride and pleasure in knowing they’re already hard at work for the upcoming season and — holy cow, who’s the chiseled guy in the red tank top swatting shots and taking charges?

Analysts say it’s this guy. He has been on campus, but don’t assume anything here. He and Magic Bender were teammates at Mountain Mission, so he’s familiar with WVU and the coaches. The story goes he’s touring places he’s considering, and the player and the schools are simply getting to know one another.

Two players with futures we can more clearly define? Teddy Allen and Wesley Harris. Both started summer school at WVU today.

It’s that time of year

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West Virginia still has a long way to go there, but the Mountaineers are nevertheless in the mix late in the game for the state’s best prospect and one of the top-rated available defensive linemen. It turns out WVU is also in the good graces of a handful of others after they trimmed long lists to slightly less long lists.

It ends, not with a whimper

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Twenty-one years ago, West Virginia’s baseball team was in an NCAA regional. The Mountaineers started 2-0 and finished 2-2. This season, the school’s first trip to a regional since then, very nearly followed the script, winning the first game, losing the second in teh last at-bat and bowing out last night with a 2-2 record.

Host Wake Forest beat the Mountaineers twice — and hit four home runs along the way, which is not a surprise — and won the region to advance to the super regional at Florida. WVU had an eventful week, though, first smoking Maryland, then playing a fiercely entertaining game against the Demon Deacons that ended with a walk-off single, rallying from a big deficit to beat Maryland and then playing every card available in the final against Wake Forest.

The weekend will be remembered as when the season met it’s end, but this season ought to be remembered as a beginning.

“I think we can full heartedly say that until the last out we competed,” West Virginia first baseman Jackson Cramer said. “It was an incredible season.”

The Mountaineers, who have never reached the Super Regionals in program history, tied the school record for most wins in NCAA postseason play with two.

While West Virginia came up short in its attempt to reach the Supers, Mazey was philosophical about the season and the future of the program

“This team will probably go down in history as one of the best ever at West Virginia,” Mazey said. “What they accomplished this year, to do it without the pitchers that we lost…it is incredible that we got as far as we did.

“We literally used every guy on the team this season to get where we are. Our guys showed a lot of heart, a lot of tenacity, and there are Mountaineer fans everywhere super proud of our team. We made Mountaineer baseball fans that weren’t Mountaineer baseball fans prior to this year.”

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NCAA regional: (2) WVU 9, (3) Maryland 1

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Thanks to @Wvboonedoc@timadkinswvu86, @patricksouthern and @JPetey41 for the photographs of West Virginia baseball’s first NCAA regional appearance since 1996, which just so happened to be a 9-1 win against Maryland.

Now, about that game …

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Learn while struggling, struggle while learning

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No matter what happens from this point forward, first baseman Jackson Cramer and relief pitcher Jackson Sigman will end their careers in the NCAA’s postseason. Most of their teammates weren’t even alive the last time West Virginia baseball made a regional — they’re the only two seniors on a roster with four juniors. Each had a big say in the first trip to this stage since 1996, Cramer with the biggest bat in the lineup, Sigman with the most durable arm on the roster. Each will have his fingerprints on what happens next.

And each is going in the right direction when the opposite was true not long ago. We’ve chronicled Sigman’s troubles before, when he gave up three home runs in 15 pitches at Kansas State, an appearance that was preceded by a disastrous outing in the loss at Maryland. He’s since righted things and become highly valuable for a team that goes to the bullpen often. We’ve sketched out Cramer’s troubles before too, when his average dipped from north of .320 to south of .260 and he managed one home run in 13 games. He’s turned it around too, and you could say his slump was … academic.

“A lot of times, that happens with a kid who’s a really, really good student like he is,” manager Randy Mazey said.

Eight of the final nine games in the 13-game stretch coincided with dead week and finals week at WVU.

“He was telling me how tough his final exams were going to be, and that takes a lot away from you,” Mazey said. “When that happens, and you know school is over and you can just relax and focus on baseball, you see guys start to come back around again.”

Cramer’s average is back up to .279. He homered twice at Texas in the final game of the regular season and then made the all-tournament team at the Big 12 tournament. He batted 4-for-15, walked twice and added four runs and five RBI.

Cramer had three extra-base hits, and he came all the way around on an RBI single and a three-base error to tie the score in the ninth inning of an elimination game against Texas Tech. WVU went on to win thanks to Cramer’s three-run triple in the 10th inning. His opposite field drive in the semifinal against Oklahoma State settled at the base of the left-field wall and counted as the final out in the 10th inning, but he wasn’t far from a game-winning two-run home run.

“It’s pretty stressful, especially with it being your senior year and you’re trying to finish college,” Cramer said. “We miss a lot of class. That wears on some people. Some people handle it better than others, but it definitely makes a difference getting worn down and stressed out.

“It’s tough to play baseball when you’ve got all that going on. Just to be a part of it now when you’ve got nothing to worry about as far as school goes, it’s a relief.”

This is where we end today. The game begins at 2 p.m. You can watch on ESPN3, listen on an IMG affiliate near you or online here and you can follow the live stats here.

Also, is anybody going? Let me know in the comments, please. I’d welcome whatever pictures, videos and other submissions you can come up with today.

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There’s still room left for one more home game as part of the AdvoCare Invitational either before or after the event, but West Virginia basketball already has a non-conference schedule that would arch the brows of both Jim Spanarkle and Allie Laforce, including two of the three Division I programs in Baltimore.

WVU baseball: Always right

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The last time West Virginia and Maryland met in baseball, Alek Manoah was cruising along through five innings. He allowed a leadoff double in the sixth inning to a left-handed batter. He allowed a two-out, two-run home run to a left-handed batter. He, um, left with a 4-2 lead, but the Terrapins were awake and won 7-6.

Keep that in mind.

Suppose it all works out nicely for the Mountaineers in tomorrow’s 2 p.m. game in the Winston-Salem regional. WVU likely advances to face Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons have one of the best power hitters in the country. Gavin Sheets has 20 home runs and 79 RBIs. Both lead the ACC and rank among the top seven in the nation. He, too, is a lefty.

Of all the well-documented trouble WVU has had with its pitching staff this season, there’s one additional item to consider: Zero pitches thrown with the left hand this season.

“It really handicaps us,” Mazey said. “The majority of the lineups in the Big 12 are left-handed. There are very few predominantly right-handed lineups in the league. Most of the good teams you see anywhere are going to have one or two good lefties in the middle of their lineup. We don’t have an answer to match that.”

Good news, bad news

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West Virginia’s non-conference football schedule is set. In addition to the season-opening game against Virginia Tech at FedEx Field, which has a 7:30 p.m. kickoff time, we now know the home games against East Carolina on Sept. 9 and Delaware State on Sept. 16 will begin at noon. The opener will be on ABC, the ECU game will be on FS2 (!) and the Delaware State will be on Root Sports.

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