When WVU announced that centerfielder Bobby Boyd would sit out Tuesday's game against Virginia Tech, it left a gaping hole in the Mountaineer lineup. His absence would be noticed not only at the plate, where his speed and bat control have yielded a .376 batting average this year, but also in the field, where his great range and cannon arm make him an almost impenetrable shield in centerfield. (The latter is an item ignored, or unnoticed, but most other outlets covering the team.)With Boyd out, head coach Randy Mazey moved leftfielder Jacob Rice to center, and filled the left field gap with Shaun Wood, who began the year as a starter in right field. Rice and Wood took to their temporary positions well, fielding the ball cleanly on every chance.
"Sean is a great player, he's just young right now," said Rice, who is in his final year. "It's hard to replace a .380 hitter, but we were comfortable out there. I played all of my juco career in centerfield, so it took me an inning or two to get back into rhythm."
In addition to solid defensive play, Rice also came up with a pair of RBI hits, including a run-scoring double in the eighth that tied the game at three-all. He credited a read of the pitcher and the scouting report provided by assistant coach Steve Trout for some of the success at the plate.
"Coach Trout goes over what pitches [the opposing starter] likes, his location and his velo (velocity). That helps a lot.
"On the hit in the eighth, I just got a good swing on the ball and got fortunate. He led me off with a curve ball that was down and then a fastball, and then I was thinking that he would come back with a curveball, and he did, and I got enough of the barrel on it."
That Rice was able to make a move in the field and still keep his concentration at the plate is just another example of how West Virginia's team has adapted and overcome adversity under Mazey. No matter what the situation, this team takes things in stride, and puts forth its best effort to win. Even when it was clearly not at its peak emotionally, as was the case against the Hokies, it was able to come up with enough to win the game.
"There's no panic with our team," Rice said, echoing the thoughts of others put in similar situations this year. "One through nine, we are good hitters, so there has been no panic at all."
Boyd, who was hit on the hand by a pitched ball against Texas, is still questionable for the weekend series against Kansas. He made the trip to Princeton for the Tech game, but had his hand wrapped for the night.
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In order to provide more rest, none of the weekend starting pitchers (Harrison Musgrave, Ross Vance and John Means) made the trip to Princeton.