MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- There aren't a lot of statistics that can explain how West Virginia's baseball team enters this weekend's series tied for the top spot in the Big 12 standings.
The Mountaineers are tied for the league lead with 28 home runs, but lead in nothing else. They're near the bottom of some categories, like earned run average, and they rank last in fielding percentage.
Yet when WVU takes the field at Appalachian Power Park tonight for the first of three games in three days against TCU, it looks to pad one stat that has really helped, but really makes no sense.
The Mountaineers are 15-3 in home games this season, despite playing home games on campus, in Beckley and in Charleston. Having no true home field has become their home field advantage. Winning without many of the luxuries that come from playing at home is proof enough why Randy Mazey's first team is this good.
"We prepared the guys accordingly," said Mazey, the former TCU assistant who welcomes familiar faces beginning with tonight's first pitch at 6:30 p.m. "It wasn't like the schedule was a surprise to us. We knew how much travel there would be going into it.
"I think adversity is easier to overcome if you prepare guys for it. We went into this thing knowing it was going to be a grind academically and with being on the road in hotels and buses, but we made the decision before the season started how we were going to handle that. Nothing has been a real shock to us."
That last part can be debated, if only because the success this season defies the Big 12 preseason coaches' poll that unanimously picked the Mountaineers (29-20, 11-7 Big 12) to finish ninth in the nine-team league. A three-game sweep of Kansas late last month definitively changed the direction of the season. The Mountaineers were rolling and knew they'd get conference-leading Oklahoma at home and then three more home games against the Horned Frogs (23-24, 8-10) before closing the regular season at Oklahoma State (34-12, 9-8).
"We got to the point where the more the adversity piled up on us, the better we were as a team," Mazey said. "We had to flip from how to handle adversity to how to handle success."
So Mazey and his two assistants, who either worked with or played for Mazey when he was at TCU from 2006-12, met with the Mountaineers before a tricky home game against Pitt would fall between the sweep of Kansas and the series against Oklahoma. They credited the players for getting past all the pitfalls that should have tripped them up, but had not. They challenged the team to understand handling success is different.
"I gave them examples of three or four programs around the country this year that as soon as they jumped into the top 25 or 30, they immediately followed that up with an awful weekend and lost two or three games to a bad team," Mazey said.
"If you start having success and you start listening to everyone who comes up to you telling you how great you are - 'Oh, you guys are wonderful. I can't believe what you guys are doing.' - you get caught up in that and that's how you have a bad weekend and lose some games."
He asked the players to maintain the good habits that had put them in their position. Play every pitch. Maximize plate appearances. Execute pitches. Make simple plays. Ignore the outside. Focus on the mission.