JJ Wetherholt is getting back into the swing of things both literally and figuratively. And for West Virginia, it could not come at a better time.

Two weeks ago, West Virginia baseball was one of the ‘first four out’ at D1Baseball’s mid-season tournament projections. Two weeks later, WVU has found themselves ranked after pulling off back-to-back series sweeps against Kansas and UCF.

All while this happened, the headline was the return of JJ Wetherholt to the lineup and he has not disappointed.

For 24 games, West Virginia head coach Randy Mazey was unable to write JJ Wetherholt on his lineup card as his star was dealing with a hamstring injury. Two Friday nights ago though, the No. 27 and the Wetherholt name was penciled in at the top of Mazey’s batting order.

“The Kansas series last weekend, he was the first batter of the series. Because he hits leadoff, and we were the visitors, he got a base hit up the middle and I think the whole dugout went, yes, we got our team. That’s an amazing feeling to feel the energy go through the dugout with him and Logan back.,” Mazey said.

The hit Mazey described would be the first of three for Wetherholt that night. The last would be the biggest as he went the opposite way for a go-ahead RBI double in the ninth inning as the Mountaineers were ultimately winners.

“The first game went obviously better than I ever could have imagined. It’s baseball, it’s a funny game. First one, I wasn’t thinking much at all, I was just happy to be playing. I hadn’t played for so long that I was just up there playing and I think a little bit translated into that’s what I can do and that’s the hitter that I am,” Wetherholt said.

Wetherholt finished the Kansas series with only two more hits, something he was not surprised with.

“You get more into the swing of things, the game starts catching up to you. I haven’t been out here, we got different arms, different pitching plans, I haven’t seen live pitching. It’s a whole mess, it’s a hard game,” Wetherholt said. “It was a little bit of a spoiling myself for the first one, but I’m still just happy to be playing and I know as much as that game could come out, another bad game could come out.”

Wetherholt entered Saturday’s game against UCF 3 for his last 17 at the plate. He seemed to start figuring himself out though, homering for the first time this season on Saturday and followed it up with another blast on Sunday.

“It’s obviously kind of just like a day-by-day thing. We’re happy with me being in the lineup and getting back in the swing of things hitting, we definitely don’t want to rush anything. You can’t really prepare your body to really get back into it after taking so much time off and what I could do, but we’ve built it up a pretty good bit,” Wetherholt said.

One aspect of Wetherholt’s game that looks different is how he is on the base paths. Last season Wetherholt swiped 36 bases and he had three stolen bases in the first game of this season, before he was hurt that opening weekend.

“Obviously speed is a huge aspect of my game, so for me to not have that entirely right now you feel a little bit handicapped at the dish. It’s something you got to get used to,” Wetherholt said.

Despite his game being somewhat limited though, he’s happy he is able to play with his team.

“I’m so happy and blessed to be able to hit and that’s obviously what I’m super excited to do is just get that little bit of playing,” Wetherholt added. “As much as I’d love to have the full speed back, be able to bunt, be able to steal at all times, score on anything, and really just be my true self. It will come and we’re happy with what we got right now.”

For Mazey, he knows how to read his superstar’s swing. He knows when he’s trying to pull the ball, Wetherholt is not at his best. But when he goes the other way and drives the ball towards left field like he did this weekend, that’s when the Wetherholt of 2024 looks like the Wetherholt college baseball was accustomed to seeing last season.

“When players miss time, you always come back rusty. Baseball is a sport where you have to do it almost every day to stay good at it. Nobody’s ever been perfect at baseball. If a pitcher misses a start, he’s always rusty coming back. If a position player misses a start, they’re always rusty coming back,” Mazey said.

“[Saturday], when he was hitting the ball to left-center field, that’s JJ. When he’s hitting ground balls on the pull side, that’s not JJ. The homer, the sac-fly, the double at Kansas in the ninth inning, those are all balls that are hit really hard to the opposite field and when he’s doing that, you know he’s getting back to where he was.”

Wetherholt finished the final two games of this weekend’s series going, 3-for-6 with two home runs, a double, four RBIs, and four runs scored. West Virginia also sits atop the Big 12 standings, and play Pitt in the Backyard Brawl on Tuesday before a weekend road series against Texas Tech.

Photo by Tyler Prusina