Baseball, WVU Sports

J.J. Wetherholt back in full swing, as WVU takes down Baylor to open series

GRANVILLE — The announcement did not need to be sent by certified mail, rather J.J. Wetherholt only needed his bat.

The wait for the return of the old Wetherholt is nearly over, at least that was the message WVU’s shortstop sent out to the rest of the Big 12 on Friday night.

Looking so much like the guy who led the nation in hitting last season, Wetherholt went 2 for 3 and drove in four runs, as the Mountaineers ended a three-game losing streak in pounding Baylor 18-5 inside Kendrick Family Ballpark.


“That was his best game of the year from a swing standpoint,” WVU head coach Randy Mazey said. “He had solid contact to both sides of the field, the middle of the field and to his pull side. His rhythm was good. His timing was good.”

Having spent most of this season on the sidelines with a hamstring injury, Wetherholt’s journey back has covered the month of April, but the comeback has come in continual steps rather than giant leaps.

Against the Bears (19-21, 9-10 Big 12), who lost their eighth consecutive game against WVU, Wetherholt’s swing was both pure and powerful.

He had a quick drive and push from his lower body, sending the ball right back up the middle for a single in his first at-bat, before adding a three-run home run that sailed 412 feet through the air in the second inning that gave the Mountaineers (24-16, 12-7) a 7-2 lead.

His confidence, too, may be the most important thing. Wetherholt’s walk in the seventh inning saw him hold off on a check-swing before immediately making his way to first base.

Added on to all of that, Wetherholt made his second straight start at shortstop, after spending most of his comeback run as a designated hitter.

“Maybe since he’s playing short, he feels more like a complete player now,” Mazey continued. “Who knows, but that was really good to see him back.”

Baylor, and maybe the rest of the Big 12 may not agree.

To that thought, WVU catcher Logan Sauve added two hits and a sacrifice RBI hitting right behind Wetherholt.

Like Wetherholt, Sauve is just now getting back into the swing of things after missing 15 games with a leg injury.

If this WVU duo finds a way to keep making contact in the final month of the season as they did against Baylor on Friday, the bar will be raised considerably on what the Mountaineers’ offense can accomplish.

“Just smash one through nine,” is the way WVU outfielder Kyle West explained it after hitting his 10th home run of the season that gave WVU a 13-4 lead in the fourth inning. “We have confidence, no matter who is at the plate now, that anyone can do damage at any given second. No matter who is at the dish, there’s confidence that they’re going to get the job done.”

The 18 runs were the most WVU has scored against a Big 12 team since also scoring 18 against the Bears last season. WVU’s record against Big 12 competition is 21, set against Kansas in 2018.

West and Reed Chumley also had two hits, as WVU racked up 12 of those, including two triples to go along with the two home runs.

Tyler Switalski earned his second win of the season in relief of starter Hayden Cooper. Switalski pitched 4 1/3 innings, allowing two hits, one run and struck out six.

Game 2 of the series is scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday, with WVU starting Derek Clark on the mound.