Takeaways: Base Running Heroics, Veteran Stars Carry WVU to Another Win
West Virginia baseball survived a sloppy affair against the Marshall Thundering Herd on Tuesday. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t their best game, but the Mountaineers still came away with a 9-7 win thanks to baserunning heroics by superstar second baseman JJ Wetherholt and a cool performance from their veterans on a shaky night.
Base Running Heroics
A pair of plays keyed by Mountaineers’ second baseman JJ Wetherholt were the difference in the rivalry win. Wetherholt drew a walk in the seventh inning, promptly stealing second. When center fielder Braden Barry flied out to right-center, Wetherholt tagged up and took off.
Not knowing if Marshall’s defenders would fumble with the ball on the exchange, not daring to look over his shoulder, Wetherholt relied on the directive of Mountaineers’ associate head coach (and third base coach) Steve Sabins, who waved him around third. Wetherholt scored the winning run from second base on a sacrifice fly.
JJ just scored from second on a sacrifice fly!
These are not normal things this guy is doing!#HailWV | @jj_wetherholt pic.twitter.com/bxnm2bsB2j
— WVU Baseball (@WVUBaseball) March 29, 2023
He helped add much needed insurance in the eighth with West Virginia clinging to a one-run lead. Shortstop Tevin Tucker and Wetherholt hit back-to-back singles to put runners at the corners with two outs in the eighth. Wetherholt took off for second base, baiting the Herd into a run down that gave Tucker time to break for home, sacrificing himself to give closer Carlson Reed some breathing room heading into the ninth.
Veterans’ Steadying Presence
It feels ridiculous to call Wetherholt a veteran player, as he’s still only a sophomore, but he’s been in Morgantown longer than more than half the roster. 15 of the 38 players on their roster are true freshmen: five more players transferred in this season. The midweek games offer a chance for young players to get used to the speed of Division 1 baseball. Sometimes they’ll have breakout games, and other times they’ll struggle. In those moments, it’s up to the veterans to put them over the top. Wetherholt said that the team’s ability to band together helped them escape with a win.
“The guys were picking each other up, playing unselfish baseball,” Wetherholt said. “Everybody came out wanting to win the game today, and we stuck together.”
Wetherholt got on base four times in six tries: he didn’t have any RBI but played an instrumental in scoring the decisive runs. Reed entered in a save situation in the eighth and struck out five batters in two innings to get the Mountaineers to the finish line.
Buckle Up for Big 12 Play
After obliterating their opposition during a five-game road trip in North Carolina, it’s been tougher going for the Mountaineers over the past week and change. Instead of winning decisively, they’ve eked out wins against teams like Marshall and Hofstra: wins nonetheless, but not quite the performance you’d want to see.
With the calendar turning and conference play beginning at Kansas State this weekend, the margin for error will be greatly reduced.
Wetherholt isn’t shaking off the Mountaineers’ 19-6 record to date. He knows that this is the stretch that will make or break their season, though.
“That’s [conference play] where you really find out who we are as a team,” Wetherholt said. “We’ve got a really great thing going on right now and we’re playing well, but, you know, Big 12 play is a little bit different baseball. It’s legit.”