Mountaineers shatter single-season home run record in key win at TCU

FORT WORTH, Texas – The West Virginia University baseball team sported its camouflage uniforms on Friday night, and it was evident because the Mountaineers came to battle at Lupton Stadium.

The Mountaineers (32-17, 18-11 Big 12) routed host TCU, 7-2, while scoring all of their runs on home runs by infielders.

“It was a huge win, at a place where we haven’t done a lot of winning,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said after WVU won for just the fourth time at Lupton Stadium in 15 games.

WVU has now won four of its last five games against the defending Big 12 Tournament Champion Horned Frogs (31-18, 14-15).

WVU junior shortstop J.J. Wetherholt broke a scoreless tie with a two-run home run in the top of the third inning to break the program’s single-season home run record with 82.

“It’s cool – we knew this year we had a chance to hit some home runs,” said Wetherholt, who pointed out Friday was his first multi-home run game since he was a 12-year-old competing in a club baseball tournament in Cooperstown, New York.

The Mountaineers would go on to belt three additional homers, elevating the new record to 85. They also had six base hits.

WVU junior first baseman Grant Hussey hit a two-run home run with two outs in the third, for a 4-0 lead. Wetherholt, who entered the game with just six homers on the season, busted another two-run shot for a 6-0 advantage.

WVU junior second baseman Brodie Kresser’s solo home run in the sixth inning capped the Mountaineers’ scoring.

WVU senior southpaw Derek Clark (7-2) more than matched the offensive firepower, with his stellar performance on the mound. Clark allowed two runs on eight hits and fanned six Horned Frogg, giving him 73 strikeouts on the season.

“Clark does it every time out – he goes out there and saves our bullpen,” Mazey said. 

It was an impressive night for Clark, who played the past three seasons at Division II Northwood University in Michigan.

“It was my plan to come to WVU, pitch on weekends in the Big 12 Conference and dominate,” Clark said. “It can be hard to win here, but I think we’ll get hot at the right time.”

The Mountaineers’ victory ensured that they’ll likely finish fourth in the Big 12 Standings. The Big 12 Conference Tournament begins on Tuesday at Globe Life Field in Arlington, just 20 minutes east of Lupton Stadium.

WVU will either play at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday as the No. 4 seed or 8:30 p.m. Tuesday as the #3 seed. To earn the No. 3 seed, WVU will have to win on Saturday and have Oklahoma State lose two of three at 12th-place Houston.

Texas’ 3-2 walkoff victory over Kansas on Friday eliminated any chance of the Mountaineers earning the No. 2 seed, which includes a Tuesday bye. 

WVU and TCU will meet in the rubber game at 5 p.m. today at TCU. It is the regular season finale for both teams and Senior Day for the Horned Frogs.

The Mountaineers will rest on Sunday and have a practice at Globe Life Field on Monday. Mazey, who was an assistant coach at TCU from 2006-2012, will have an opportunity to see friends from his time in Fort Worth.

Being in the top third of Big 12 teams doesn’t ensure anything, regarding the NCAA Tournament – especially after the Mountaineers were left out of the 2022 bracket.

“I don’t ever feel (that we’re in) until I see our name (on the screen),” Mazey said.

BY MICHAEL SUDHALTER/For The Dominion Post