Baseball, Sports, WVU Sports

WVU looks to bounce back at Lexington Regional

MORGANTOWN — Rocky Balboa made a living by getting clobbered in the first round, only to get back up and win by knockout in the final round.

The only difference between the WVU baseball team and the Italian Stallion is the Mountaineers have yet to dust themselves off.

Of the 64 teams in the NCAA tournament, WVU (39-18) has the longest losing streak of five games heading into it.

That includes getting swept at Texas to end the regular season, before going 0-2 in the Big 12 tournament.

“We definitely didn’t forget it, but this is another season now,” WVU shortstop Tevin Tucker said. “There’s nothing we can do about what happened before. We just have to let it go and focus on what’s next.”

What’s next is a matchup against Indiana (41-18) at 7 p.m. today in the Lexington (Ky.) Regional, an opportunity for WVU to put all the negatives that came over the last five games in the rearview mirror.

Accomplishing that will likely mean not getting knocked down in the first round.

In those setbacks, Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State all grabbed the lead by the second inning in all five games.

Combined, WVU allowed 22 runs over the first and second innings of those games.

“That was the thing that was tough, because we couldn’t even make it out of the first inning in the Texas series,” WVU second baseman J.J. Wetherholt said. “It was kind of scary. I think they scored more runs in the first innings than we did the entire series.”

If this is indeed a different season, the early innings could tell if this is a different WVU.

“I’m not going to be holding my breath. I don’t think anyone will be,” Wetherholt continued. “I expect it to go smoother and for us to play better baseball. That’s something I’m looking forward to.”

WVU head coach Randy Mazey has yet to announce who he’ll pitch against the Hoosiers (41-18), but traditionally teams in regionals have held their top guy for the second game.

If Mazey holds Ben Hampton for Saturday, that means Blaine Traxel could get the call against Indiana.

Traxel (7-5) led the Mountaineers in wins and tied for the nation’s lead with five complete games, but his last start saw him give up nine hits and eight runs in five innings against Texas.

Traxel didn’t get an opportunity to pitch in the Big 12 tournament, so he would throw with 14 days of rest.

“I think whoever gets the call for that game, I hope they have a good first inning to set us up for the rest of the game,” Wetherholt said. “Obviously, the first inning isn’t going to be the entire game, but it would be great to get off on a good note.”

Of the four teams in the regional — Ball State and host Kentucky play in the first game at noon — only Ball State comes in on a winning streak.

The Cardinals won the Mid-American tournament with a 12-9 victory over Kent State in the finals.
Otherwise, WVU’s 0-2 showing in the Big 12 tournament doesn’t look all that bad. Kentucky was eliminated in the opening round of the SEC tournament in a 4-0 loss against Alabama, and the Wildcats have lost five of their last seven.

As the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten tournament, Indiana went 1-2, and the Hoosiers have lost four of their last six games.

“People have asked me before: How do you win a regional? You get in a regional,” Mazey said. “If you get hot at the right time, which we’re really capable of, then anybody can win any regional anywhere.

“It’s just the team that gets hot and your good players have good days. Anybody can win anywhere.”

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