Leading Off

The top of West Virginia's batting order has been a manager's dream for much of the season, with each of the first three hitters filling roles that have contributed to great production at the plate.

The trio that heads WVU's batting order might not be the most physically imposing group of 1-2-3 hitters in the NCAA, but there's no denying their productivity. The leadoff group of shortstop Taylor Munden, centerfielder Bobby Boyd and second baseman Billy Fleming have consistently gotten the Mountaineers off to good starts this year, and they were up to their usual tricks in Friday night's 5-3 win over Texas. In the first inning, Boyd reached on an error and came around to score on a Fleming single, giving WVU an early 1-0 lead.

For the game, the trio combined for six hits, one walk, three runs and three RBI, helping the Mountaineers grab game one of the series.

"When Tyler gets on, then you don't know what Bobby is going to do," Fleming said of his teammates. "He's so fast and he can bunt it and do a lot of things and then I come up and and try to drive them in. Our lineup is really steady right now. Top to bottom we're clicking right now."

Each of the three has different things they do well, but by no means are they one trick ponies. In the leadoff slot, Munden has some pop in his bat, as shown by his team-best 14 doubles He also has wangled 14 walks this year. Behind him, Boyd is an artist with the bunt (he legged another hit out on a push bunt to second base in Friday's game), and now boasts a team-best .385 batting average. Fleming, hitting third, isn't a power guy, but combines a .347 average with a more disciplined approach at the plate that ha yielded him 23 RBI. He's also gotten on via walk or HBP 19 times this year, further setting the table for Ryan McBroom and Jacob Rice behind him.

"I think just staying in my approach," Fleming said of the key to his outstanding showing at the plate this year. "I'm not trying to hit a homer or a double in the gap. I'm just trying to hit the ball where it is pitched and drive that run in. That's been my approach all year."

Defensively, the group has also been better. Boyd covers acres of ground in ceterfield with his speed, and has a plus arm that belies his stature. Teams have learned not to try to take two bases on most hits that he fields, as they are likely to be on the receiving end of a rocket throw and a tag that sends them to the dugout. Fleming has just four errors on the season, while Munden has improved from a year ago as well. Fleming flashed his glove work against the Longhorns with a spectacular grab of a foul pop-up late in the game, in which he crashed into first baseman Ryan McBroom before juggling and securing the catch.

"We were both going for the ball I called it a little bit late," he said. "I caught it, and he bumped into me and I bobbled it a little bit, but was able to catch it. We were both going for it as hard as we could to go get it, because we knew it as going to be one of our plays. He tried to get out of the way, but we were just going too fast."

Opposing teams, who have tried unsuccessfully to keep the trio off the bases and from crossing the plate, would undoubtedly agree.

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