By Bob Behre


Liam Cleary walked onto the West Virginia University campus a week ago and quickly fell in love with the school and its baseball program.

Cleary,  a junior infielder from Hopewell Valley (NJ) Central High School and the Diamond Jacks Super 17 Underclass team, quickly committed to join the Mountaineers in September of 2019.

“I committed on the same day I visited,” said Cleary. “I toured the baseball facilities with coach Sabins. He took me and my mom around. The facilities are amazing. They treated me like I was at home.”

Steve Sabins is an assistant coach charged with guiding the West Virginia hitters. He’s in his third year with the Morgantown, West Virginia school. Randy Mazey is in his sixth season as the team’s head coach, steering a team that competes in the very rugged Big 12 conference. West Virginia’s Big 12 opponents include Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas and Texas Tech.

Cleary followed an outstanding sophomore year at Hopewell Valley Central High School with an equally successful summer with the Diamond Jacks Super 16U squad. The 5-9, 180-pound bull has formed an impressive reputation for his dangerous bat and fluid play in the infield.

Cleary batted .440 with 32 hits and 35 RBI for a talented Hopewell Valley team last spring that went 17-8 and reached the Mercer County Tournament championship game for the first time. The Bulldogs were also 6-2 in the highly competitive Colonial Valley Conference. Cleary was also used as a closer by his high school team.

“Liam is the epitome of a baseball player,” said Diamond Jacks recruiting coordinator Steve DiTrolio. “Not many guys bring it every game like Liam does. He’s fun to coach because he loves to play the game.”

That love and passion for the game emanates from Cleary whether he’s at the plate, in the field or charging around the bases.

“He’s our first West Virginia commit,” said DiTrolio, “and I’m fired up for him. They are getting themselves a true throwback.”

Cleary said Maryland, Rhode Island and William Mary were also teams of interest for him, but his visit to West Virginia sealed the deal. “I committed the day I visited, so I guess that says it all.”

Cleary’s first exposure to West Virginia occurred during a two-day camp in late August during which he was one of many young players experiencing the campus and being evaluated. “I started to talk to coach Sabins at that point,” said Cleary, who didn’t meet head coach Mazey until his visit last Saturday.

The righty-hitting Cleary has been sidelined the past two weeks with a broken wrist. He actually broke the wrist two weeks prior when he was hit by a pitch in a Super 17 Underclass game. He thought nothing of it and played through it. “It just started hurting pretty bad so I got it checked out.”

It looks like Cleary will missed the rest of the fall season but is already aching to get back in the cage and work on his swing and keep himself in shape in preparation for the coming spring. It doesn’t help that his Super 17 Underclass teammates are playing in Florida while he’s home in Central Jersey.

But Cleary is just one month from being cleared to play ball again.

“It’s definitely a lot of weight off my shoulders to have the commitment behind me,” said Cleary. “I can just play baseball. I kind of planned to commit before the end of the fall and it worked out.”

Cleary credits Diamond Nation’s impressive coaching staff for guiding him along to this point in his career. “Coach DiTrolio, my brother (Walter Cleary), coach Travis (Anderson), coach Rick (Clagett) and coach Kevin (Cust) have all had a big effect on me.” 

West Virginia finished fourth in the Big 12 Conference in 2017 after posting a 36-26 record and qualifying for the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1996. The Mountaineers played 18 games against Top 25 opponents last winter and spring and were 10-8 in those contests.