Takeaways: Mountaineers Show Their Ability to Win Ugly Against Xavier
West Virginia baseball won their second straight walk-off on Friday, defeating the Xavier Musketeers 5-4. It wasn’t pretty and the Mountaineers made plenty of mistakes, but they were still good enough to escape with a win against a talented Xavier lineup.
Head coach Randy Mazey flip-flopped the top of the Mountaineers’ lineup on Friday, moving second baseman JJ Wetherholt to the leadoff spot and dropping center fielder Braden Barry to No. 2. Wetherholt acquitted himself well in his first day on the job, going 3-for-5 and notching the game winning hit. He’s hitting .456 more than a month into the season, his 41 hits nearly double that of the next closest Mountaineers batter and one of the best margins in all of Division 1 ball. Wetherholt is on the verge of getting the Barry Bonds treatment, as teams have started intentionally walking him the second he comes to the plate with a base open and runners on.
A left-handed hitter who likes to hit the opposite way, Wetherholt did just that in the ninth inning, jumping on the first pitch he saw and poking it to left-center to score pinch-runner Tré Keels and win the game.
Moving Past Mistakes
The Mountaineers made plenty of mistakes against Xavier, but they didn’t let it snowball. All three runs that starting pitcher Ben Hampton allowed came on home runs. Hampton gave up a game-tying two-run blast in the sixth inning, but recovered to work five straight outs and end his day on a high note. Reliever Carlson Reed had a nightmare eighth inning. He allowed a one-out single, then let Xavier put another runner on via a comebacker to the mound that he couldn’t quite get a glove on, an awkward play that was charged as an error against him. After a game-tying single, Reed loaded the bases, but rebounded by inducing a double play to end the inning.
Reed again pitched through traffic in the ninth inning, putting up a zero and becoming the winning pitcher after Wetherholt’s heroics. Both veteran players made mistakes, but they still managed to bounce back from them as they (and the team) were good enough to secure a win despite the ugly outing.
Good Competition, Better Results
Following the conclusion of Friday’s game, Xavier is ranked No. 31 in the nation by RPI. Even though the Musketeers have a disappointing 10-11 record, they’ve acquitted themselves decently against some of the toughest teams in the country. This wasn’t a game against Canisius or VCU where the Mountaineers were able to coast to victory on an off-day. West Virginia has showcased their ability to dig deep and win ugly in the past two games. A win is a win, even if they aren’t racking up any style points for it.