Mazey looks to continue defining roles during West Virginia’s 4-game series with Charlotte

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — In the final opening series of his career, West Virginia baseball coach Randy Mazey got a look at his team without standout shortstop JJ Wetherholt for 8 1/2 innings of Monday’s series finale against Stetson — one the Mountaineers won 7-5 to salvage a split of the four-game set.

Mazey may very well get a more extended look at his squad without Wetherholt this weekend as West Virginia prepares to play four games at Charlotte starting at 4 p.m. Friday. In addition the series opener, Saturday’s doubleheader and Sunday’s finale can each be seen on ESPN+.

Wetherholt exited West Virginia’s second game last Monday in the middle of the first inning after suffering an injury while scoring a run.

“Too early to tell. Had some tests done [Tuesday] and just waiting on the results of that,” Mazey said. “Don’t really have much for you on that note. Going to take it day by day. That’s the best way to live anyhow, so why wouldn’t we do it that way?”

Wetherholt, an All-American who battled a hamstring issue while competing for Team USA over the summer of 2023, is again believed to be dealing with a hamstring injury, though Mazey would not confirm that.

“I don’t know if I’m allowed to comment on that or not, so in the interest of safety, I better not,” he said.

Regardless, it appears the Mountaineers’ 12th-year head coach, who has announced this will be his final season, will have his team facing the 49ers (2-2) at Robert and Mariam Hayes Stadium without its top player for at least part, if not all, of the series.

It’s a continuation of what Mazey has referred to as at least somewhat of an experimental stage of the season as he looks to define roles and decipher characteristics on the WVU roster.

The Mountaineers (2-2) played four tight matchups in their series with the Hatters, winning the opener 6-4 and suffering a 7-5 loss and a 5-4 setback, before notching a second victory by two runs.

“They’ve heard me say it before and we talk about the first 20 games we’re trying to establish some roles on this team. We did that,” Mazey said. “We had some guys that came in and just played defense at the end of games or just pinch ran in some of the games or came off the bench and pinch hit. We had some spot starters at DH. Everybody knows that most guys are going to get their chance the first 20 games. That keeps them engaged at practice and makes everything a little more competitive when they’re trying as hard as they can to get in there. It seems to work for us.”

That each of WVU’s first four games was not decided until the final out is beneficial to Mazey, who says it gives him a better idea of who can and can’t rise to the occasion in key spots.

“Playing in the Big 12, almost every game comes down to the last inning,” Mazey said. “It’s really nice to see who can hit better when there’s guys on base versus when the score is out of hand and there’s nobody on base. Who really enjoys being in those moments? We had a lot of them this past weekend. Another continuation of that. It’s nice to win along the way, but at this juncture of the season, it’s more important to learn things about your team than win all the games. We started out 0-2 last season and by the time April rolled around, nobody cared about starting the season 0-2.”

Brodie Kresser moved from centerfield to shortstop in Wetherholt’s absence and will likely stay there so long as Wetherholt remains out. 

Right fielder Benjamin Lundsen was a bright spot in the opening series with a team-best six hits, including two home runs in the season-opening victory. The UT Arlington transfer drove in four runs and scored three over the four games.

“He got some results, but better than the results, he was calm and collected and never got rattled or sped up, which was really encouraging to see,” Mazey said. “He has a great feel for the game and played infield last year at his previous school. We’ve been playing him in the OF and he played well in the OF and hit a couple big homers for us.”

The series with Charlotte presents opportunities for other players to stake their claim to more consistent playing time. Originally slated to be a three-game set, the Mountaineers and 49ers agreed Wednesday to make Saturday’s originally scheduled matchup a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m.

“We never start swinging the bats as good as we can until we get to the halfway point,” Mazey said. “In the meantime, you’re just trying to find ways to win games and survive.”

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