Photo: WVU baseball coach Randy Mazey named Furfari Award winner as state college coach of the year by West Virginia Sports Writers Association. Dale Sparks photo.

Sean Manning

The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN–When Randy Mazey arrived at West Virginia University in 2012, the baseball program was set to enter a brand new era in more ways than one, and it was a much-needed facelift.

 With Mazey at the helm, the Mountaineers were preparing to join one of the premier college baseball conferences, the Big 12, but a lot of work needed to be done. Coming off a 23-32 final season in the Big East, a change in philosophy was in order. Also the ballpark WVU played in, Hawley Field, was far from the high standards other Big 12 programs had on their campuses.

 Behind WVU’s football and men’s basketball programs, baseball was an afterthought when Mazey was hired. The idea the Mountaineers could host an NCAA regional was a pipe dream.

 Seven years later, through a major overhaul from top to bottom including the opening of Monongalia County Ballpark in 2015, Mazey made that a reality. Last June, in front of a record-breaking crowd of 4,355 fans, the Mountaineers hosted Fordham in the first NCAA regional in Morgantown since 1955.

 While WVU fell in grand fashion to Texas A&M in the regional, WVU’s special 2019 season (38-22, 13-11 Big 12) helped Mazey be named the 2019-2020 Furfari Award winner as state College Coach of the Year, as voted on by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.

 The balloting order behind Mazey included Dan Stratford, the University of Charleston men’s soccer coach and since named the WVU coach; Chris Grassie, the Marshall U. men’s soccer coach; and Ben Howlett, the West Liberty U. men’s basketball coach.

 “I’d like to thank the West Virginia sportswriters for this honor. There are a lot of great coaches around the state, which makes this award a special one for me,” Mazey said. “I’d also like to thank all my players and assistant coaches for their hard work and commitment. It was a very special 2019 season for the Mountaineers, and this wouldn’t have been possible without them.”

 The Furfari Award is named for longtime sportswriter and former The Dominion-Post sports editor, the late Mickey Furfari. Mazey is the first WVU baseball coach to win the award and just the second baseball coach overall (Cal Bailey, West Virginia State, 1980) since it began in 1942. The overall list of award winners may be found on the wvswa.org website.

 WVU’s 38 wins are the second most in school history and the most in Mazey’s first seven seasons. It was also the first time since 1982 WVU finished in the final national rankings, where it spent a program-best eight straight weeks to end the year.

 With a high-profile pitching staff, Mazey, who has a background as a pitching coach, set up a strong top of the rotation with the likes of Alek Manoah, Nick Snyder and Kade Strowd.

 While all had impressive seasons, Manoah was the one to take the top spot as the ace of the staff. He posted a 9-4 record with a 2.08 ERA, a school-record 144 strikeouts to just 27 walks. Manoah’s stellar season earned him the No. 11 overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft to the Toronto Blue Jays.

 “It’s one of the happiest days of my coaching career,” Mazey said last June. “To see how happy all his teammates were for him tells you what type of person he is.”

 Strowd was also selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the 12th round, while Snyder was picked by Arizona Diamondbacks in the 11th round. In total, the Mountaineers had eight draft picks last year–the most in school history–including catcher Chase Illig (Yankees), catcher Ivan Gonzalez (White Sox), outfielder Brandon White (Angels), outfielder Darius Hill (Cubs) and pitcher Sam Kessler (Tigers).