Hours before first pitch, hundreds of West Virginia baseball fans congregate in the parking lots surrounding Monongalia County Ballpark.
Those who can’t find a spot to tailgate lay claim to surrounding restaurants, turning a Buffalo Wild Wings across the street from the stadium into a sea of gold and blue.
Although the fanfare is less populated than what one would see around Milan Puskar Stadium in the fall for football games, the pregame celebrations carry the same sentiment: support.
“I’ve seen every game of West Virginia’s — either live or on television — this year,” said John Lowery. “We’re all in to Mountaineer Nation, that’s for sure.”
Lowery, a Martinsburg native and the father of WVU freshman pitcher Beau Lowery, is one of the many fans choosing to spend their weekend with the Mountaineers. Lowery was a part of one of the first groups of tailgaters on Saturday afternoon, arriving at the stadium around 11 o’clock in the morning.
So far this weekend, Lowery is one of the many WVU fans that have made the commute to the ballfield. A crowd of 4,355 was on hand to watch the Mountaineers defeat Fordham on Friday — a single game attendance record at Monongalia County Ballpark. Similar crowds are expected throughout the Morgantown Regional as tickets have been hard to come by.
“I think we created the environment that you want to have when you’re hosting a regional, no question,” Lowery said of the Fordham game.
With Friday night’s crowd crushing the previous attendance record by nearly 900, a ripple effect caused the crowd’s energy to radiate onto the field — igniting a flame within the West Virginia baseball team.
“As soon as we saw everybody pile in and start sitting on the berm, piling in on the seats and watching everybody scream from the get-go, (it) just gets you fired up,” senior catcher Ivan Gonzalez said after the game. “Your energy is up for every out, every pitch.”
WVU head coach Randy Mazey agreed, saying, “We knew it was going to be a packed house, standing room only. We knew there was going to be a ton of energy. So, you can say you expect it, but at the same time, them getting into it really helped us win the game.”
All season, the Mountaineers have benefitted from the perks that come from playing at home. In the regular season alone, the team went 17-5 at Monongalia County Ballpark — the third highest home winning percentage in the Big 12.
While West Virginia hopes that success continues as they advance on the road to the College World Series, the fans will continue to do their part.
“I think the West Virginia culture likes to have fun and the gameday environment is created by the tailgating and everything that comes along with it,” Lowery said.