GRANVILLE — WVU baseball had quite the weekend.
Not only did the Mountaineers record their first-ever three-game sweep of Big 12 foe TCU, but a new program series attendance record was also set as 9,152 fans packed Mon County Ballpark over the three games, including 3,441 on Friday, the sixth-biggest crowd in ballpark history.
The sweep vaulted WVU (29-11, 8-4 Big 12) to the top of the conference standings and back into the national rankings, coming in at No. 18 in this week’s D1 Baseball top 25.
“For us to do what we did this weekend with the crowds and the atmosphere, you have no idea how hard it is,” WVU skipper Randy Mazey said Sunday. “Our guys are playing at a pretty high level right now.”
WVU has won four games in a row and six of their last seven. Typically when a team starts to surge as WVU has, it is veterans who are leading the way. With WVU, however, it’s a lot of first-year players who are making a difference.
“We’ve got three freshmen in (the lineup), you’ve got (Grant) Hussey, who’s a sophomore, (Landon) Wallace and (Caleb) McNeely are first-year players in the program,” Mazey said Friday. “Up and down the lineup we’ve got a bunch of young kids and we’re performing at a pretty high level.”
It was those newcomers who keyed the series sweep of TCU. WVU won Friday’s opener 5-4 with all five runs coming off the bats of two first-year Mountaineers, Wallace and Sam White.
Wallace, a transfer from Nevada hit a two-run home run in the first inning and White, a freshman, had a three-run bomb in the fourth that ended up being the game-winner.
“Everyone who plays this sport loves to compete, hitter versus pitcher, team versus team,” White said. “In the big moments, everybody loves to be in them and just do the best for your team.”
There was even greater theatrics during Saturday’s 7-4 win. WVU scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game 4-4 and had two runners on with one out when Elis Garcia was called upon to put a sacrifice bunt down. After failing to do so twice, the freshman swung away and hit a go-ahead three-run home run to left field.
“We’re just playing our baseball,” said Wallace, who had three more hits on Saturday. “Our team’s good enough to just play our game and win games.”
Finally, on Sunday, the Mountaineer offense exploded for 17 runs on 13 hits with another three-run home run, this time courtesy of Hussey as they run-ruled the Horned Frogs 17-7.
“Hussey hit a three-run homer (on Sunday), White did Friday and Garcia did Saturday,” Mazey recalled. “That’s just a crushing blow to score three runs with one pitch.”
Most of this was done without top hitter JJ Wetherholt as well, as he missed five games with a thumb injury and didn’t return until he pinch-hit on Sunday. In his absence, Garcia has moved defensively from third base to second and shortstop Tevin Tucker has moved into the leadoff spot in the lineup, where he went 5-for-10 and scored five runs over the weekend and was named the Big 12 Player of the Week.
“We’ve got a good team,’ Mazey said. “If you have a good team, guys will do whatever they have to do in order for the Mountaineers to be able to win the game.”
It’s not just in the standings where the Mountaineers sit atop the conference either. Statistically, WVU has the second-best team batting average (.302) and on-base percentage (.418) and the third-best slugging percentage (.540). The Mountaineers also have the second-best team ERA in the Big 12 at 4.37.
“I feel like as the Mountaineers we always have a chip on our shoulder,” Hussey said. “We’re never the team that anybody’s scared to play or the team that everybody picks to finish first.”
This week, the Mountaineers will look to avenge a loss from earlier this month when they host Penn State (23-13, 5-7 Big 10) on Tuesday before traveling for a weekend series at last-place Baylor (15-25, 6-12).