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Takeaways: Durags and Defense Help West Virginia Beat Xavier 7-2



WVU Baseball's Tevin Tucker

WVU baseball won their third game in a row Saturday, downing the Xavier Musketeers 7-2. Starting pitcher Blaine Traxel threw a complete game, and the Mountaineers adapted well to wild, windy conditions at the Mon. 

Winds of Change

With a constant 22 mile per hour breeze and gusts reaching much higher, West Virginia’s defense had their work cut out for them on Saturday. 

Second baseman JJ Wetherholt said that head coach Randy Mazey drilled home the importance of backing up one’s teammates while chasing fly balls, knowing that the wind could change on a dime and blow a ball in the opposite direction. The warning must’ve worked, as the Mountaineers weren’t charged with any errors on the day, although a couple plays could’ve been tallied as such. 

For a pitcher like Traxel who relies on inducing soft contact and getting ground ball outs, having a strong defense behind him is key to success. The Mountaineers were able to back him up even on a day when it wasn’t easy to do so.

On offense Mazey said that with a steady wind to left field, he didn’t want his batters trying to tee off and sell out to hit home runs. 

I told them before the game, hitting’s hard enough. If you’re trying to dictate how you hit based on the weather conditions, [it won’t end well],” Mazey said. 

Even so, the Mountaineers did manage a pair of tape measure wind-aided blasts. Wetherholt hit a 440 foot home run the opposite way, and center fielder Braden Barry hit one to almost the same spot on the next pitch as part of a four-run eighth that helped put Xavier away.

Flair for Fashion

The wind was so bad that second baseman JJ Wetherholt’s hat blew off his head in the middle of the second inning. Starting pitcher Blaine Traxel donned a durag to help secure his cap. Traxel said wearing the durag started as a joke during the week, but it became beneficial with the relentless wind.

“During the week it was kinda funny…KD [Kevin Dowdell] was telling me to wear it when I pitch, [I] thought it’d be funny if I wore it,” Traxel said. “The wind blew my hat off a couple times, and I was like, ‘I just, I need something.’” 

When asked if he’d start a new tradition following the durag aided win, Traxel was ready to respond with a quote from The Office. He didn’t commit to the idea, but left the possibility open. “I’m not superstitious, just a little stitious, you know, so we’ll see, we’ll play it by ear during the week and see what goes on, but no plan…if I’m gonna do it or not. If I’m feeling it I’ll do it, if not, I won’t.”

Spoken like a true fashionista.

Solo Shots

Traxel allowed just two runs across nine innings of baseball. Both runs he gave up came via the long ball: on a windy day, it was going to be difficult to keep the ball inside the fences for 27 outs. 

Mazey said after the game that he emphasized the fact that a team can survive giving up solo home runs: it’s when the runs start to pile up that things get out of hand. Traxel only allowed two hits with runners on base, preventing Xavier from starting any rallies.

Mazey also spoke to how veteran players like Traxel have helped the team stay cool in tight games this season. Traxel’s ability to keep his head and slow the game down in difficult situations allowed the Mountaineers to stay on top.

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