J.J. Wetherholt focused on going out on a high note to close out his college career

May 29—MORGANTOWN — There is still another step to be taken for J.J. Wetherholt, another game to be played.

Draft projections and a career in the major leagues can still wait, as far as the WVU shortstop is concerned.

"I know what can be in the future, but I don't really think about it too much, " Wetherholt said. "I'm just excited about playing with my guys."

And then there is Randy Mazey's attempt at sidestepping the topic.

"J.J. is only a junior, he'll be back next year, " the WVU head coach says with a gleeful grin, knowing full well Wetherholt can become the school's highest-drafted baseball player.

That will be determined July 14, the first day of the 2024 Major League Baseball draft, which begins at 5 p.m.

Wetherholt's name is expected to be off the board before 6 p.m., with some projections having him going to his hometown Pittsburgh Pirates at ninth overall.

All of it sets Wetherholt and the Mountaineers (33-22) up for one last hurrah, as WVU travels to the Tucson, Ariz. Regional to face Dallas Baptist (44-13) in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

That hurrah will take place 2, 000 miles away, but Arizona's Hi Corbett Field is not exactly a foreign field to Wetherholt.

The Mountaineers took two-out-three from the Wildcats last season in an early nonconference series.

"J.J. played very well out in Arizona last year, " Mazey said.

In those three games, Wetherholt batted.538 with two home runs and three doubles.

"He did his thing, " Mazey continued. "So he's going to be very comfortable there."

That series at Arizona in 2023 was sort of the start of Wetherholt going from the unknown prospect from Mars, Pa. into becoming a national name and All-American.

By the end of his sophomore season, Wetherholt had become the Big 12's Player of the Year and the nation's leading hitter with a.449 batting average.

He'll walk into the NCAA tournament a year later having gone through a more difficult season, one that was marred by a hamstring injury that cost him 24 games.

"So much focus was put into getting healthy and getting back, " Wetherholt said earlier this season. "It all went by so quickly. You looked up and it was already April by the time I got back. There was so much time missed."

Not that it matters to Wetherholt, but the time away put a halt on what could have been his assault on several WVU records.

As it stands, Wetherholt is still just one of 22 players at WVU to reach 200 career hits. His career.376 batting average ranks 15th all-time and his 29 home runs have him tied for seventh.

What could have been is not a topic of discussion with Wetherholt. What's done is done.

Besides, there is still a game to be played, a college career to wrap up on the highest note possible.

"It was impossible to predict what all he's done, " is the way Mazey put it. "You can never anticipate a guy doing what he's done, but we knew all along he was going to be a good baseball player."