Baseball, WVU Sports

Getting away from the game helped WVU players refocus for their trip to the NCAA tournament

MORGANTOWN — Some guys went fishing, while others played a round of golf.

WVU second baseman J.J. Wetherholt wanted to golf, but his clubs are back home in Pennsylvania, so he went fishing.

“I’m still learning about the good places to fish around here,” he said.

Other WVU baseball players spent some time getting a massage at Massage Envy in Morgantown.

“That massage felt really great,” WVU shortstop Tevin Tucker said.

Upon returning home from the Big 12 tournament, WVU players — maybe more than anyone participating in this week’s NCAA tournament — needed to get their minds off baseball.


“It’s kind of been a regrouping,” Tucker explained. “We had a day off to relax. We had to step back for a day before we got back into it.”

The Mountaineers (39-18) are making their 14th appearance in the NCAA tournament at 7 p.m. Friday, when they play Indiana in the Lexington (Ky.) Regional.

They will do so as a team trending in the wrong direction having lost their last five games, including an 0-2 showing at the Big 12 tourney.

Those five losses cost WVU an opportunity to win the Big 12 regular-season title outright and dropped the Mountaineers from No. 6 to No. 21 in the national rankings.

“I’ve never really gone through anything like that before,” said Tucker, an all-Big 12 honorable mention selection after hitting .319 with eight doubles and 19 stolen bases. “It was definitely tough, but I felt like it was a learning experience.

“We were going so well during the year, and things didn’t go our way at the end.”

Tucker referred to the NCAA tournament as a “whole new season.”

He would know. Tucker is the only WVU player on the roster left from the school’s 2019 appearance when it hosted a regional.

“It’s a great feeling to just be in the tournament,” he said. “In 2019, we hosted, so we knew we were in. This year, it feels good to get back after missing it the last couple of years.”

The major question: How will all of that translate into how WVU plays in the tournament?

As far as regrouping, WVU head coach Randy Mazey said sitting in the team room on Monday and watching “West Virginia” come up on the TV screen on selection day served as the best opportunity to forget the losing streak.

“We just sat through the reset button watching your name get called,” Mazey said. “Mental toughness is defined as your ability to focus on the next thing that’s in front of you, not anything beyond that or anything in the past.

“We have a mentally tough team. I have no doubts they’re excited about the upcoming week.”

It’s with that in mind that WVU’s focus is on getting back to playing good baseball, rather than worrying about which team is next on the schedule.

“One thing I do know is any team in this field is capable of winning the regional,” Mazey said. “Who you play really doesn’t matter. It’s how you play. We’re as good as anybody. If we play well, we’ll beat anybody. Our best players have to play well, it’s that simple.”

Indiana (41-18) went 1-2 over a three-game series against Texas, the same team that swept WVU in a three-game series to end the regular season.

The Hoosiers also beat Ball State twice and lost a game to Kentucky, so this matchup with the Mountaineers will give Indiana at least one game against everyone in the Lexington Regional.

“We just have to get back to the process of what we do well,” Mazey said. “We kind of got away from that a little bit. I think guys are refocused now. They know what’s ahead of them. You win five games, you’re in the College World Series. We’re that close. You just have to do everything right and give yourself every chance to win.”

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