MORGANTOWN, W. Va. (BVM) – The West Virginia Mountaineers are atop the Big 12 rankings and have been one of the better stories this baseball season. As if that wasn’t good enough, the Mountaineers offensive juggernaut, sophomore second baseman JJ Wetherholt, is putting together an historic season.
Wetherholt currently leads the nation in batting average (.466) at the plate this year. He, along with projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 MLB Draft LSU’s Dylan Crews and FAU’s Nolan Schanuel, could become the first Power 5 players since Buster Posey to have over a .450 batting average. Wetherholt’s play has people saying he should be in contention for the Golden Spikes Award.
“I think a lot of the stuff has just come with maturity and that year of playing,” Wetherholt said. “As a freshman you can kind of get sped up and now I feel like the games are slowing down just a tick.”
Opposing pitchers better hope it doesn’t slow down anymore because Wetherholt is already hitting basically anything that he likes, and he likes any pitch in the zone.
“I like to swing at any pitches in the zone that I see and because I feel like I have confidence that I can hit any pitch,” Wetherholt said.
The Mars, Pennsylvania native is backing up that confidence with cold, hard stats. His OPS is 1.359, he has 56 RBIs and through more than 50 games he has less than 20 strikeouts. It’s an amazing season but naturally, Wetherholt is far more focused on the Mountaineers success. West Virginia is No. 12 in the nation and leads the Big 12.
“I think we’re in the best spot I could’ve ever imagined,” Wetherholt said. “We’re doing really well, things are clicking pretty good. Gotta clean a couple things up like always, just play a little more consistent baseball but we’re in a great spot.”
With the team success and the box office attraction that is Wetherholt, Morgantown has quickly become a baseball town. The fans are showing out and West Virginia has now gotten used to playing in front of sell-out crowds at home.
“It’s been awesome man, people are really starting to care about college baseball here which is everything a baseball player could ever imagine or ever want,” Wetherholt said.
“We definitely feed off the energy we get from them.”
It’s been an amazing ride but one that isn’t over yet. The Mountaineers are enjoying themselves but are focused on finishing out the season. Last year, a late slump and back-to-back losses in the conference championship cost them a chance to play in the postseason.
West Virginia has learned from that and the team is better for it. It is the same thing with the Mountaineers star player. A year under his belt has done wonders to Wetherholt.
Wetherholt made the Big 12 All-Freshman Team last year and posted a .308 batting average with 39 RBIs as well as an .882 OPS. However, Wetherholt said he did struggle once conference play started last season but did get hot during the last home stretch. Using that momentum, he spent the summer working on a few things while also getting healthy via procedures on both knees.
“You can’t be happy with just one good year and you have to find a way to replicate it,” Wetherholt said about his freshman season with West Virginia.
He not only replicated it but has improved in basically every facet of the game. According to West Virginia’s second baseman, the series against Arizona at the beginning of the season was one of the first indicators that the sophomore had turned a page in his baseball career. Wetherholt went 7-for-13 over four games with four RBIs and two home runs.
The second indicator came when his production didn’t slow down once conference play started.
“Opening up against Kansas State that was a big series for me,” Wetherholt said. “Like I said previously, my freshman year my first conference week I think I went 1-for-9 with like five or six strikeouts. It was a brutal start. That opening conference weekend, that was a big test for me to see how far have I really come because conference play is little bit of a different brand of baseball; it’s that next step up.”
Wetherholt is more confident at the plate, he’s learned to have a short memory when it comes to bad at bats and it’s showing in the boxscore. Combine all that with his swing which has led to one of the better offensive seasons by a Power 5 player in the last 20 years.
It’s not surprising that he is in the running for the Golden Spikes Award and that his team is also thriving while he’s playing so well. Wetherholt has become a go-to guy for the Mountaineers and a star in Morgantown.
“It’s definitely something that I’m still trying to get used to,” Wetherholt said about his rise to stardom.
Based on his recent history, Wetherholt will work on it over the summer and be ready for next year. In the meantime, he still has work to do with West Virginia as they try to make it to the College World Series.