MORGANTOWN — Landon Wallace needed only one word to sum up his weekend series against Baylor.
A sweep of the Bears helped propel the Mountaineers (33-11, 11-4 Big 12) up to No. 12 in the D1 Baseball rankings on Monday — the Mountaineers are No. 14 in the coaches’ poll — believed to be the highest WVU has ever been ranked in school history.
Wallace, WVU’s durable and talented left fielder played his role, even if it was a painful one.
Over the course of the three-game sweep, Wallace was hit by a pitch six times.
They included one in the face — as Wallace squared to bunt on Friday night, the pitch hit his helmet and ricocheted off his face. It was the second time he was hit in that game.
He was back in the lineup the next day, only to get hit three more times, some squarely in the back, others off his shoulder and arm.
Wallace wrapped it all up on Sunday with one final HBP, but also exacting some sort of revenge with his eighth home run of the season, as the Mountaineers rolled to an 18-4 win.
He then probably wrapped as much of his body as possible in ice on the plane ride home.
There is a weird tale to be told about Wallace and the entire WVU roster, for that matter, when it comes to taking one for the team this season.
For starters, WVU has taken more than just one — try 81, so far — hit by pitches, an average of nearly two per game.
That leads the Big 12 by far, with TCU sitting in second with only 57.
It’s not close to leading the nation, though. No. 13 Campbell has been hit by 114 pitches in 41 games. How’d you like being the trainer for that team?
“As a program, we keep track,” WVU second baseman J.J. Wetherholt said. “We call them dodge balls. All throughout the fall and the spring, if you jumped out of the way, you get a dodge ball. The biggest thing is to hold your ground and to stick to it and then just deal with the pain, because it’s going to hurt.”
And, apparently, have a ton of Icy Hot in the dugout. The Mountaineers also set a school record earlier this season getting hit by eight pitches in one game against Hofstra.
As for Wallace, his college career has served as something of a bullseye for pitchers.
Transferring to WVU this season from Nevada, Wallace led the Mountain West Conference last season getting hit 16 times.
He’s nearly matched that total this season with 14, with 11 games remaining in the regular season.
“I’d rather get hit by a pitch and get a free base for the team than dodge the pitch,” Wallace said. “It’s just seeing the ball. You can see sinkers and breaking balls and most likely predict where it’s going to go. You just rotate.”
He’s certainly added more to the Mountaineers than a magnet for pitchers. Wallace will enter Wednesday’s game against rival Pitt batting .319 with eight home runs and 37 RBIs.
His production has dramatically improved since early March, when he was hitting just .194, and as Wallace’s production picked up, WVU manager Randy Mazey now has Wallace batting third in the lineup.
Maybe the most-crazy thing about Wallace’s weekend was it only helped him keep pace with teammate Dayne Leonard, who has been hit by a pitch 16 times this season, which leads the Big 12.
“He usually just laughs about it,” Wetherholt said of Wallace. “Sometimes he gets a little animated and will get a little hot when it hits him and give a little stare down. At the end of the day, he takes it well and he’s a competitor. All he wants to do is get on base.”