MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Tevin Tucker was far from the focus of opposing teams’ scouting reports in 2022, but he might have been one of the most important players in the lineup.

The then redshirt junior shortstop was WVU’s No. 9 hitter, providing the Mountaineers a speed boost at the bottom of the batting order. There’s no question why this was the case, as he was the lone Mountaineer starter to finish the season below the Mendoza line.

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So it’s pretty easy to overlook Tucker’s value at a surface level. To coach Randy Mazey, though, he has plenty of value beyond the numbers.

“Tevin’s one of my favorite kids of all time,” Mazey said. “He’s a great kid, he’s been a mainstay in our lineup, as you know, for four years now, and is elite defensively.”

Tucker is the sole survivor from West Virginia’s historic run to host an NCAA Regional in 2019. He has had a roller-coaster career as he fought injuries, a pandemic and batter’s box struggles to help the Mountaineers compete. He even missed the entire 2021 campaign after undergoing surgery.

That season, he showed his true value to the team. Tucker stayed in the dugout when possible, providing moral support to his team, and by 2022, he was the team’s vocal leader in the middle of the infield.

“As far as leadership goes, and controlling the people around him, and in the locker room and in the apartment, he’s as good a Mountaineer as we’ve ever had,” Mazey said. “But we need him to be a productive offensive player. You don’t have to be a great hitter to help the offense.”

Tucker also displayed a keen sense of adding offense without swinging the bat. The Virginian may have recorded just 29 hits in 2022, but he still reached base over 30 percent of the time.

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His speed can kill defenses, too. Tucker was the only Mountaineer to record three triples in 2022, and he is WVU’s top returning base-stealer after swiping 21 bags. That helped him score 33 runs for WVU, the fifth-most on the team and the third-highest total returning to the roster.

A player like that is almost tailor-made for Mazey’s mischievous, brain-rattling style of play on the base paths.

“Tevin just has to do his thing on offense. He has to get his walks, he has to lay his bunts down, he has to be a guy that can execute hit-and-runs, that type of thing,” Mazey said. “If he can do that and help the offense, that would be a huge boost for us.”