Wells: WVU baseball will continue to improve

PARKERSBURG -West Virginia University’s assistant athletic director of sales and marketing touted improvement in the school’s baseball team and said he expects things will continue to improve.

Matt Wells spoke to the Parkersburg Lions Club Thursday. He said the school’s biggest athletic transition to the Big XII is improvement to the baseball program. WVU’s baseball team stepped up in class when it joined the Big XII. School officials are working to make the team and its facilities competitive.

The school plans to build a new multimillion dollar baseball facility to replace Hawley Field, but it won’t be ready for play until 2015.

Longtime baseball coach Greg Van Zant was fired last year after 18 seasons. He was replaced by Randy Mazey, an assistant at TCU.

Wells had high praise for Mazey, noting he “inherited a team that was middle of the road in a bad baseball conference.” The Mountaineers were holding their own so far this season, sitting at 6-6 and in fifth place in the conference.

“They are only two games out of first place,” he said.

The team has the added burden of a road-home schedule, playing “home” games in Beckley and Charleston, as well as Morgantown.

Wells again echoed that travel was the “biggest, toughest” part of Big XII play, with the nearest conference school (Iowa State) located more than 850 miles away. The schedule is particularly hard on the basketball and volleyball teams, who play weeknight games.

Wells said it’s not unusual for the basketball teams to arrive at the Coliseum from a road trip at 4 a.m.

“The last words they hear is ‘be sure you make it to class in the morning,'” he said.

Wells was asked if WVU plans to expand sports to match Big XII sports, adding softball, (men’s) track and field and golf. Wells said that it’s constantly being examined by school officials who must consider finances and Title IX ramifications.

“It’s a lot of evaluation going on,” he said. “I have no idea what direction that will take.”

Wells was also asked if Pitt or Ohio State would return to the football schedule any time soon. Wells said there’s always interest, but noted the decision was not solely in WVU’s hands. He admitted no Ohio State/WVU game was on the radar right now.

“With scheduling we don’t hold all the cards,” he said.

He was asked about the new four-team College Football Playoff.

“You feel better being in the Big XII and outside the power conferences,” he said. “It will remain to be seen how close a look (schools outside the major conferences) get.”