White’s Defense Key To Cutting Down Runs
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The speed of the 2019 West Virginia baseball team has been a big factor on the basepaths for head coach Randy Mazey, who favors an aggressive style that puts pressure on opponent. The Mountaineers have stolen 73 bases this year, by far the best in the Big 12 and good for 18th nationally at more than two per game.
That fleetness afoot has also helped defensively, and nowhere is that more evident than in centerfield, where Brandon White, who not coincidentally leads the team with 20 steals, patrols. Out in those open spaces, his field coverage shines.
Taking advantage of his ability to cover ground, White has made multiple plays this year that have made it onto sports highlight shows. Due to his speed, he often plays very shallow in the outfield, as he trusts his ability to get back and also cover the gaps. Even against power hitters, he’s often more shallow than conventional wisdom might dictate, but he rarely gets beaten on deep shots.
White isn’t tempting fate, though, or pushing where his coaches align him. They too know that he is a weapon defensively who can turn short flares and bloopers into outs while tracking down deeper drives.
“Sometimes, here and there,” White said of pushing the envelope on just how shallow he can play. “I don’t try to test my limits too much, because we have to make all the plays. I usually play where [the coaches] have me.”
The Winter Springs, Florida native doesn’t just rely on that one physical gift to make plays. He’s also watching each at-bat and how the hitter is faring against the WVU pitcher on the mound. Combined with the scouting reports that the team relies on, White is often able to get to a ball that he wouldn’t otherwise due to good positioning.
“If I see a guy late on fastballs I might shade off a little bit,” he said, providing one example of how he and the other outfielders adjust during the game. “It’s little things, three feet, five feet, it can make a big difference.”
White’s most recent display in that regard came in Saturday’s doubleheader sweep of Kansas. He was able to track down a deep shot over his head that would have produced a couple of Jayhawk runs. Instead, it resulted in an out.
“It was honestly inches at that point,” he said of his positioning. “If I’m in a different place, there’s no way I am getting to that ball.”