HANK KURZ Jr.
AP Sports Writer
Patrick Mason, a college assistant coach for 17 years, is Virginia Tech's new baseball coach.
Mason replaces Pete Hughes, who left Thursday after seven seasons to take the same job at Oklahoma.
Mason has been the Hokies' pitching coach and recruiting coordinator the last three years, and athletic director Jim Weaver said Mason's relationship with players that have committed to the Hokies over the next two seasons, as well as the need to act quickly rather than risk having him follow Hughes to Oklahoma, were factors in the decision to promote him.
"One of the things that is very difficult to do is to replace recruits," Weaver said, adding that in the meeting with Hughes, the coach endorsed Mason for the job. The Hokies have seven commitments for 2014, and three from the 2015 class.
Oklahoma sought permission to speak with Hughes last Friday, Weaver said, and Hughes informed him in a meeting Wednesday morning that unless his family developed a great objection on a trip to Norman, Okla., he was leaving.
Oklahoma flew Hughes, his wife and five kids to Norman on country music star Toby Keith's jet, Weaver said.
"There was not going to be a bidding war" to keep Hughes, Weaver said, because Hughes was inclined to leave.
Mason, who has overseen vast improvement in Virginia Tech's pitching numbers, said the Hokies have already "won a major recruiting battle with Oklahoma" in convincing assistant Mike Kunigonis to become the associate head coach. Kunagonis, like Mason, just completed his third season at Virginia Tech, focusing mostly on outfield play and hitting.
"I am ready to accept the challenge of being a head baseball coach," Mason said, adding that with the players still in school, and those that have committed to the program, "the future has never been brighter for Hokie baseball."
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