MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Randy Mazey decided to make a change to his lineup two weeks ago. Wanting to maximize every possibility of bringing JJ Wetherholt to the plate in a game, the WVU skipper flipped the sophomore second baseman and outfielder Braden Barry in the lineup.
Ahead of a weekend series against visiting Xavier, Barry slid down to be the team’s two-hole hitter, while Wetherholt slid one spot up the lineup card to bat leadoff. The top of the WVU lineup has been constructed in that way since.
“You want your best hitter to hit as many times as he can,” Mazey said following his team’s win over the Musketeers the next day. “It sure is nice to have him come up [to the plate].”
No. 24 West Virginia (21-7) has won five of its seven contests since Mazey made the change.
Wetherholt has continued to hit an impressive rate, and has even risen his Big 12-leading batting average by 15 percentage points to .462.
Mazey’s move did a number of things.
It increased the chances of Wetherholt coming to the plate in any given game. It took some of the weight off of Barry, who has continued to produce from his new spot in the lineup. It has also seemingly helped nine-hole hitter Tevin Tucker increase his production, during what has already been a career-year for the veteran shortstop.
“[Wetherholt] wouldn’t be doing what he’s doing if Tevin Tucker’s not drawing walks right before JJ comes up there,” Mazey said on March 25. “And those are the two biggest at-bats, other than JJ’s, of the last two days, is the walks that Tevin draws so they can’t walk JJ.”
Entering play against Xavier on March 24, Tucker was hitting for a .317 average with a .462 on-base percentage.
In the seven games that have followed, the veteran infielder has raised his season batting average to .321, has tallied at least one hit in six of the seven games, and has drawn nearly half of his season total for walks.
The lineup change forced opposing pitchers to stress more about getting outs ahead of Wetherholt stepping inside the left-handed batter’s box. That stress, however, has worked in Tucker’s favor. The Prince George, Virginia native has reached base 50 percent of the time since the lineup change occurred — an increase of nearly 40 percentage points.
“Tevin’s just shown tremendous leadership at the plate,” added the WVU skipper. “That’s what leaders do.”