3:06pm: Hotline with Dave Weekley

‘Some guys come along that can single-handedly change the face of an entire program’: Wetherholt’s impact on Mountaineers not lost on Mazey

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — When North Carolina relief pitcher Dalton Pence stepped on the first base bag to retire Ben Lumsden for the final out of Game 2 in a super regional series between the Tar Heels and West Virginia, it brought an end to one of the Mountaineers’ more successful seasons in program history as well as the 12-year tenure of head coach Randy Mazey.

It was also likely the final game in a WVU uniform for standout shortstop JJ Wetherholt, a junior who is projected to hear his name called early into the Major League Baseball Draft next month in Fort Worth, Texas.

During the final postgame press conference of his career, Mazey made sure to mention the indelible mark Wetherholt has had on the program over his three seasons in Morgantown.

“Some guys come along that can single-handedly change the face of an entire program,” Mazey said. “Alek Manoah did it in 2019 when we hosted a regional. He changed the face of this program. JJ Wetherholt has changed West Virginia baseball forever and I have him to thank for that.”

Wetherholt, who has previously mentioned his relationship with Mazey as being a key reason he chose to attend West Virginia, has made the most of his time as a Mountaineer with a .370 batting average, 29 home runs, 81 extra-base hits, 129 RBI and 57 stolen bases over 145 games.

“It’s been the best three years of my life,” Wetherholt said. “Super thankful for coach for believing in me, teammates for pushing me and the entire coaching staff for making me the player I am today.”

Wetherholt was recognized on the Big 12 All-Freshman Team in 2022 when he split time between third and second base and hit .308 with five home runs, 39 RBI and 15 stolen bases.

As a sophomore, Wetherholt was Big 12 Player of the Year and a unanimous first-team All-American after finishing with a .449 average, 16 home runs, 60 RBI, 36 stolen bases and a .787 slugging percentage.

In 2024, Wetherholt transitioned to shortstop and overcame an early-season injury that sidelined him for 24 games to hit .331 with eight home runs and 30 RBI. 

“It’s been unbelievable and all I can say is thank you to everybody that’s been along for the ride,” Wetherholt said.

Mazey has been along for the entirety of the ride, one that he’ll continue to monitor closely when Wetherholt is done donning the blue and gold.

“JJ knows that my relationship with him is not over. It’s just beginning,” Mazey said. “I won’t be coaching him anymore, and I wouldn’t be coaching him anymore even if I wasn’t retiring. But I’ll always be a big fan of his, not just as a player, but as a person and his family and everything he stands for. I can go down the roster of 40 people and say the same thing about every single one of them.”

A 5-foot-10 native of Mars, Pa., Wetherholt was anything but a heralded recruit, but is unquestionably one of the more decorated players in WVU history having helped the Mountaineers qualify for the NCAA Tournament over each of the last two seasons and advance to a super regional for the first time in school history this year. Over Wetherholt’s three seasons at West Virginia, the Mountaineers finished 109-66 and 48-30 within Big 12 play.

After struggling down the stretch last season and losing seven of its final eight games to lose out on the outright Big 12 regular season championship, West Virginia looked to be following a similar path when it lost to TCU and Kansas State and was eliminated early at the Big 12 Championship.

Instead, as the third seed among four teams in the Tucson Regional, the Mountaineers put it all together at the perfect time and defeated Dallas Baptist and then Grand Canyon twice to go unbeaten in Arizona.

That led WVU to a super regional at the No. 4 national seed, and while the Tar Heels prevailed, both contests weren’t decided until the final pitch in a series that saw UNC outscore the Mountaineers, 10-7.

“Our mentality and the fun we had helped us compete in games people didn’t think we would compete in,” Wetherholt said. “I don’t think anybody picked us to make it out of Tucson and we won three straight. That was a testament to us having fun and changing things up.

“We’d come off of a rough conference tournament and from that point on, we realized we were lucky to continue to be able to play and we needed to just relax and have some fun. That’s something we did well in Tucson and we did here, and you could see the results. We played neck and neck with an unbelievable North Carolina team and credit to them that they were able to beat us, but we played really well against them. It’s a testament to the fun we were having and the relationships on this team.”

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