MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Coming off its best season since joining the Big 12 Conference, the West Virginia University baseball team opens the 2017 season at Charlotte this weekend.
Opening Day is set for Friday, Feb. 17, at 3 p.m. ET, in Charlotte, North Carolina. The series at Hayes Stadium continues on Saturday at 1 p.m., before the series finale on Sunday at 1 p.m.
The Mountaineers (36-22 in 2016) won 36 games in 2016, their most wins in a single season in coach Randy Mazey’s four years and the most since they won 37 in 2009. WVU finished fourth in the Big 12 Conference and advanced to its first ever Big 12 Championship title game.
West Virginia returns 20 players from last year’s squad, including seven of nine starting position players. The Mountaineers welcome 15 newcomers as part of the highest-rated recruiting class in program history.
The 49ers (23-32 in 2016) finished eighth in Conference USA in 2016 with a 12-17 record. Charlotte returns nine starting position players from last year and lost just three letterwinners from its 2016 squad. The Niners welcome nine newcomers to the team.
Additional behind-the-scenes updates and notes from Charlotte can be found on social media by following and connecting with the team at @WVUBaseball on Twitter
Charlotte is coming off a 23-32 campaign in 2016. The 49ers finished eighth in Conference USA with a 12-17 record after rejoining the league before the 2014 season.
Loren Hibbs begins his 25th season with the 49ers. A 1984 Wichita State graduate, he owns a 730-603-4 record at Charlotte and a 325-294 mark in league action.
Charlotte returns nine starting position players and 21 of 24 letterwinners from a year ago. Headlining the list are junior infielder Brett Netzer and senior outfielder T.J. Nichting. Netzer led the team with a .384 batting average and a .461 on-base percentage, while Nichting led C-USA with 22 doubles.
HISTORY VS. THE 49ERS
West Virginia is 1-2 all-time against Charlotte, with the lone series occurring in 1993, in Charlotte.
The 49ers won the first game between the two teams, 15-9 in 1993, before the Mountaineers responded with a 5-4 victory the following day to even the series at 1-1. The Niners answered with a 12-6 win to win the series.
Four players on the 2017 roster hail from West Virginia. It is tied for the second-most represented state on the team, behind Texas (10). Junior right-hander Shane Ennis
is from Romney, and redshirt sophomore shortstop Jimmy Galusky
is from Arthurdale. Sophomore righty Michael Grove
hails from Wheeling and newcomer Chase Illig
is a catcher from Bluefield.
WVU FIFTH IN BIG 12 PRESEASON POLL
West Virginia was voted to finish fifth in the 2017 Big 12 Conference baseball preseason coaches’ poll.
The preseason ranking is WVU’s highest since joining the conference in 2013. The Mountaineers received 40 points, the most in their five years in the league.
TCU was a unanimous selection to win the league with 64 points, while Oklahoma State was second with 54 points. Eight points separated the next three spots, as Texas Tech garnered 48 points to finish third, followed by Texas in fourth with 41 points and WVU in fifth, with 40. WVU also received one first place vote. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team.
FRESHMEN ALL-AMERICAN DUO
For the second consecutive season, a pair of Mountaineers earned Freshman All-America accolades in 2016: outfielder Darius Hill
was recognized on five teams and catcher/third baseman Ivan Gonzalez
Hill was named to five Freshman All-America teams: Baseball America Second Team, NCBWA Second Team, Louisville Slugger as selected by Collegiate Baseball newspaper, Perfect Game Second Team and D1Baseball.com Second Team. Gonzalez was honored by Baseball America.
Hill’s three honors marks the seventh time in team history a player has earned at least three All-America accolades in a single season and the second in as many years, joining Kyle Davis
. Gonzalez becomes the 16th player in program history to earn at least one All-America honor and it is the 43rd honor overall for the program.
Gonzalez and Hill join Kyle Davis
and BJ Myers
, who earned Freshman All-America accolades in 2015. It is the second time in program history that two Mountaineers earned All-America honors in back-to-back years. The first time it happened was in 2008-09, when Jedd Gyorko was recognized both seasons and Tyler Kuhn was honored in 2008 and Vince Belnome in 2009.
KEY TEAM NOTES
- West Virginia begins its 125th year of baseball in 2017. Founded in 1892, WVU is 2,095-1,502-19 all-time
- West Virginia was voted to finish fifth in the 2017 Big 12 Conference baseball preseason coaches’ poll, WVU’s highest preseason ranking since joining the conference in 2013
- WVU won 36 games in 2016, the most wins in a single season in coach Randy Mazey’s four years and the most since 2009 (37)
- WVU went 3-1 at the 2016 Big 12 Championship and advanced to its first ever Big 12 Championship Game and first conference title game since 1996
- West Virginia went 12-11 in the Big 12 and finished fourth, its second-best finish since joining the league in 2013
- The Mountaineers won 17 of their last 21 games to finish the 2016 season, a stretch that included a 10-game winning streak, the longest in the country at the time and WVU’s longest since an 11-game winning streak in 2008
- WVU recorded 13 saves, the second-most in program history, led by Blake Smith’s eight, also second-most in a single season in team history
- WVU had one of the youngest lineups in the country, totaling 286 starts by freshmen position players in 2016, the most in the Big 12, for an average of 4.9 freshmen starters per game
- Chad Donato struck out a Big 12-best 111 batters, tied for the fifth-most in a single season in program history
- Coach Randy Mazey won his 100th game at WVU in an 11-6 victory at Kansas on March 26 and became the fifth coach in program history to eclipse the 100-win mark and the second to accomplish the feat in his first four seasons
- A total of 40,390 fans filled Monongalia County Ballpark in 2016, the highest home attendance in team history; and for 30 home games, WVU averaged 1,346 fans per game, the second-highest average in program history
- Darius Hill and Ivan Gonzalez were named to Freshman All-America teams after leading the Mountaineers in several offensive categories as freshmen in 2016
- Four Mountaineers were named to the 2016 Big 12 All-Tournament Team, the most in program history: KC Huth, Kyle Davis, Conner Dotson and Ross Vance
- WVU collected a program-record 10 All-Big 12 honors, headlined by Chad Donato, who became the fourth Mountaineer to earn All-Big 12 First Team accolades
- West Virginia earned 10 Big 12 weekly honors, the most in a season since WVU joined the Big 12 for the 2013 season and tied for the most of any school in the conference in 2016
- WVU won all three Big 12 weekly awards on May 2, the first ever sweep of the Player, Pitcher and Newcomer of the Week awards by any Big 12 school
- Seven were named to the Academic All-Big 12 team, with five First Team honorees.
- Chad Donato and Blake Smith were selected in the 2016 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Angels, while Ross Vance and Ray Guerrini signed free-agent contracts with the St. Louis Cardinals and Seattle Mariners
- WVU has had 14 draft selection in coach Randy Mazey’s four seasons, the most draft picks in a four-year stretch in team history.
CELEBRATING 125 YEARS
- West Virginia begins its 125th year of baseball in 2017. Founded in 1892, WVU owns an all-time program record of 2,095-1,502-19.
- WVU has had 19 coaches. Dale Ramsburg (1968-94) owns the record for most wins, with 534. A.R. Stahlings was the program’s first coach, from 1894-96. Current coach Randy Mazey is fifth all-time in wins (124).
- A total of 14 Mountaineers have earned All-America honors. Ivan Gonzalez and Darius Hill are the most recent honorees, having both earned Freshman All-America accolades in 2016. Two more All-Americans are on the 2017 roster, in juniors Kyle Davis and BJ Myers, who were recognized on Freshman All-America teams in 2015.
- West Virginia has made 11 NCAA Tournaments, most recently in 1996.
- The Mountaineers have been members of six conferences and own a total of 19 conference championships. WVU was an independent from the program’s founding in 1892 until 1950, when it joined the Southern Conference from 1951-1968. West Virginia was an independent again from 1969-1980. The Mountaineers were in the Eastern 8 from 1981-82 before becoming the Atlantic 10 in 1983. From 1996-2012 West Virginia was in the Big East. WVU joined the Big 12 in 2013.
- Twenty-three Mountaineers have played in Major League Baseball. The list includes current St. Louis Cardinals infielder Jedd Gyorko, a Morgantown native.
- Eighty-two Mountaineers have been selected in the MLB Draft. That includes 2016 draftees Chad Donato (11th round, Houston Astros) and Blake Smith (29th round, Los Angeles Angels).
- West Virginia did not field a team from 1943-45, due to World War II
Season tickets, flex plan tickets and mini packs for the 2017 WVU baseball season are on sale now. Fans can purchase tickets by calling 1-800-WVU GAME, going to WVUGAME.com
or visiting the Mountaineer Ticket Office in the WVU Coliseum. The 2017 schedule is available on WVUsports.com