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Takeaways: JJ Wetherholt’s Performance the Difference in WVU’s Quirky 6-5 Win at Arizona



WVU Baseball JJ Wetherholt

The West Virginia Mountaineers moved to 3-2 on the season, defeating the Arizona Wildcats 6-5 in extra innings. It wasn’t pretty, but the Mountaineers got the job done thanks to a game-breaking performance by infielder JJ Wetherholt.

Wetherholt: Game Breaker

Sometimes great players just take over the game. That happened on Friday night, when Wetherholt went 3-for-6 with two RBI.

The Mountaineers trailed 2-0 early before Wetherholt hit the reset button, tying the game with a two run homer, his first of the season. He barely missed a second home run in the fifth inning, settling for a double instead.

His marquee moment came with his third and final extra base hit of the night, an eleventh inning double. Wetherholt stole third to put the go-ahead run 90 feet away, then darted home with two outs and two strikes to take the lead.

Head coach Randy Mazey pulled shortstop Tevin Tucker for a pinch hitter in the tenth, forcing him to overhaul West Virginia’s infield alignment as they got back on defense. Rather than moving a third baseman to shortstop, as is traditional, Mazey trusted Wetherholt to move over from second, a testament to his ability as a defender.

Pitching Carousel

With a wealth of pitchers on a college roster—the Mountaineers have 21, four or five of whom are reserved to start in a given week—coaches are able to be much more aggressive with their substitutions than the pros.

That was on display in the eighth inning, when a series of Mountaineers got a quick hook depending on what the situation demanded: organized chaos at its finest.

Sophomore right-hander Aidan Major let the first two base runners reach, prompting Mazey to substitute redshirt senior Noah Short to get a ground ball out. Short did so, but the Wildcats were ready for it, moving the runners over with a bunt.

With putting a ball in play no longer possible, Mazey pulled Short after just one batter in favor of redshirt freshman David Hagaman’s swing and miss ability.

Hagaman struggled, walking two, so Mazey called senior lefty Kevin Dowdell’s number to face Wildcats’ left-hander Chase Davis. Davis drew a walk, and with Dowdell’s services no longer necessary, Mazey went to sophomore Keegan Allen, who finally finished the inning.

The substitutions didn’t always work—and burned through the bullpen early—but the Mountaineers still managed to win the 11 inning game. How they operate with several of their go-to relievers gassed will be something to watch in the second game of the series.

Ninth Inning Errors

Defensive miscues plagued the Mountaineers in their first series against Georgia Southern. They reared their ugly head again in the ninth inning against Arizona, with a pair of errors letting two runners on.

West Virginia managed to survive the mistakes: a fielder’s choice erased a pinch runner, and sophomore right-hander Keegan Allen managed to work around the other with a strikeout and a groundout. Even so, the penchant for mess ups at the worst possible time is worrisome if the Mountaineers can’t get it under control.

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