MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – If it were not for his double-play partner’s sensational season, everyone in West Virginia would be talking about Tevin Tucker.

The 6-foot, 180-pound shortstop from Prince George, Virginia, became somewhat of a patriarch for the West Virginia University baseball team in 2023.

He had seen it all: a Regional at his home ballpark, a losing season, a canceled season, year-long slumps and a devastating injury. There may not have been a player in the NCAA with more experiential wisdom than Tucker.

As a head coach, what a luxury for Randy Mazey to have.

“Tevin’s one of my favorite kids of all time,” Mazey said. “He’s a great kid, he’s been a mainstay in our lineup, as you know, for four years now, and is elite defensively…As far as leadership goes, and controlling the people around him, and in the locker room and in the apartment, he’s as good a Mountaineer as we’ve ever had.”

The story is well-known. He was the No. 2 shortstop prospect coming out of the state of Virginia in 2018, and landed with the Mountaineers for the 2019 season. He started 60 games at shortstop as a freshman, hitting. 199 with 10 doubles. In the Covid-shortened 2020 season, he hit .170 in 16 games.

Why stick with him through the struggles at the plate? For starters, the aforementioned “elite” defense he brought to the shortstop position. The sub-.200 average was also easier to stomach when compared to his .365 on-base percentage as a freshman. At the same time, he stole 19 bases.

He may not have struck the ball well, but he provided value offensively.

A preseason injury sidelined Tucker for the entirety of the 2021 season. When he returned in 2022, he provided stability in the field, but his bat (.181 average) still lagged behind other starters in the Big 12.

Tucker elevated himself to prospect-level status in 2023 with an incredible leap statistically in the batter’s box. After three seasons batting below the Mendoza Line, his batting average skyrocketed to .318, which was the second-best on the team.

He doubled his previous single-season hit record from 2019 (31) with 62 base hits this season. His on-base percentage rose to .465.

He was a starter in 2019 when WVU last made the NCAA Tournament, and he was the only player on the 2023 team to be on both postseason rosters. This time around, he was a vocal leader.

“It was a great season for sure,” Tucker said. “It was one I’ll never forget. It felt good to be back in the postseason, and I know they’ll be back. I know Coach Mazey [will have] them back in a heartbeat, but it was a great season. I loved every moment of it.”

The third-person reference to the team is significant there. Tucker, a graduate student, still has one year of eligibility remaining, but his 2023 campaign could boost his chances at a selection in July’s MLB Draft. At 23 years-old, and fresh off the best season of his collegiate career, his stock may never be higher than it is right now.

It’s possible Tucker will never play another game for West Virginia.

“[I] love all the kids,” Mazey said. “There’s not a guy in uniform I wouldn’t do anything for. I don’t every try to identify or like these kids because they’re good players. I like them because they’re good people…”

A long pause ensued as the always-smiling, camera-stealing and sideways-hat-wearing shortstop came to the front of Mazey’s mind. He fought back tears.

“And you won’t find a better person than Tevin Tucker. So when he’s done fielding ground balls and stealing second base, our relationship will continue to grow.”