MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – This time of year, the teams having success on the diamond are generally older teams.
That’s even more true for the 2023 season when you factor in the number of players using their extra eligibility due to COVID-19.
While WVU’s head baseball coach Randy Mazey has made that observation, especially this year, his team has found itself among the nation’s best with a much younger roster.
Ten different position players on West Virginia’s roster have started 30 or more games this season. Half of them are underclassmen. The two sophomores fixtures in the Mountaineers lineup are second basemen JJ Wetherholt and first basemen Grant Hussey.
Wetherholt leads the nation in batting average at .463. He is currently the only player in the Big 12 conference hitting above .400 on the year and leads the league in seven different categories.
Ellis Garcia, Logan Sauve, and Sam White are the trio of freshmen who have played their part in WVU’s success in their debut season.
“When the coaches voted on who our best freshman hitter was going to be, Sauve, Garcia, and White all got votes from the coaching staff,” Mazey said. “They’ve all been super, super steady. They are all really good players.”
Garcia paces the group of first-year players in terms of starts with 38. The third baseman is batting .265, and his 10 doubles are good for No. 4 on the team. He has knocked in 23 RBI, including three homers. He also held his own at second base while Wetherholt missed time due to injury.
Sauve, a catcher and designated hitter, has the highest batting average of the three at .275 to go along with 16 RBI and three shots over the fence.
White is batting .258 and has driven in 17 runs. He also had the game-winning RBI in WVU’s walk-off win over Hofstra in March.
The Mountaineers’ talented group of freshmen is also on display on the pitching staff, including Robby Porco, who has taken over the role of WVU’s Sunday starter. He’s fourth on the team in strikeouts with 43. He fanned a career-high 10 in his first Big 12 start against Kansas.
Porco, Carson Estridge, Gavin Van Kempen, and Maxx Yehl are a combined 11-1 on the season.
“We knew they were talented. Hard to expect those types of results right out of the gate, but they’ve been so good for us. It’s encouraging not just for this year but for the future,” Mazey said.
When scrolling down WVU’s roster and seeing it is dominated by younger players, it makes what the league-leading Mountaineers have been able to do this season even more impressive.
For the skipper, it isn’t a surprise that those young players have had an impact so quickly. He credits the leadership from veteran shortstop Tevin Tucker and Wetherholt for the Mountaineers having a special season.
“Great leaders can influence the people around them without doing much. Tevin and JJ are making the players around them better. That’s what great leaders do,” Mazey said on a recent episode of the WVU Coaches Show. “They aren’t doing it by grabbing a jersey and yelling at them. They are doing it by example. Our young guys are seeing what our old guys are doing and doing the same thing. It’s feeding off of itself.”
No. 12 West Virginia has one final midweek clash left on its schedule. It will play the final Backyard Brawl of the spring on Wednesday night at Pitt at 6 p.m.