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What We’ll Miss: The Development of WVU’s Next Slugger

Cody Nespor

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It is not often that a true freshman can lead a team in home runs. Even on a team that recently has not had a lot of power hitters like West Virginia, it is rare.

Despite this, it was looking like true freshman Matt McCormick was going to have the chance to not only lead the Mountaineers in home runs this season but also develop into the team’s premier power hitter.

McCormick (6-foot-1, 225 lbs.) certainly fits the mold of a power hitter and through his first 16 games he was providing some left-handed pop WVU’s lineup has not had in a while. Through 55 at-bats, McCormick was tied for the team lead in both doubles (four) and home runs (three), was second in RBI (11) and first in slugging percentage (.600).

After the team’s last game against Liberty, McCormick said the biggest adjustment to playing in college was facing tougher pitchers.

“Guys having command of all three pitches, or even if it’s just their two pitches they’re both pretty outstanding pitches,” McCormick said. “It’s just getting the feel for everything.”

His success was not a surprise, however. McCormick was the Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior at St. Laurence High School in Oakland Park, Ill. He hit .419 with nine homers and 51 RBI in his final prep season and impressed enough to be drafted in the 40th round by the Cincinnati Reds.

WVU coach Randy Mazey said he was impressed with McCormick’s approach for being a young player.

“He’s super calm in there,” Mazey said after the team’s home opener. “He doesn’t get rattled, he doesn’t chase bad pitches, he takes a lot of walks.”

McCormick opened the season hitting out of the three-hole in WVU’s lineup and did not have a ton of success early on. Through nine games of hitting near the top of the lineup, McCormick was hitting .281 with just four RBI and two extra-base hits.

After an 0-3 day with a pair of strikeouts against VCU, Mazey sat McCormick for the team’s game against William & Mary then put him in the seventh spot in the lineup for the rest of the season and McCormick flourished.

In six games hitting out of the seven-spot McCormick batted .478 with seven RBI, three doubles and two home runs. He also scored seven runs.

McCormick said he liked moving down in the order because he was getting better pitches to hit.

“I think I see a lot more fastballs,” McCormick said. “I don’t really care (about moving down), I kind of like it, I’m better in the seven than the three.”

Seeing more fastballs was good for McCormick because that is all he wants anyway.

“Just fastballs. I really just look for fastballs, nothing else.”

While college seniors are the group most affected by the cancelation of Spring athletics, underclassmen will be suffering adverse effects as well, missing out on valuable playing time needed to develop into the players their teams will need them to be.

For someone like McCormick, who has already been drafted and has a good chance of being drafted again, he misses almost his entire freshman season to get used to collegiate pitching. Missing that year could push back his timetable of when he will turn pro and it means WVU fans will miss a year of watching him mash.

What We’ll Miss’ is a series that will look at all the potential storylines that won’t be able to happen because of the Big 12’s cancelation of Spring athletics. A previous story in this series focused on senior Braden Zarbnisky missing out on his comeback season.

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Cody is currently a second-year graduate student at West Virginia University studying journalism. His graduate research focuses on the effects newspaper closures have on local communities. He graduated from Slippery Rock University in 2018 with a degree in digital media production. He was born and raised in Mercer, Pennsylvania.

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