Transfer led in winning rush in Sunday’s win over Texas
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Dayne Leonard was one of many heroes on Sunday for West Virginia.
His sixth-inning three-run and punt brace gave the Mountaineers a lead they wouldn’t give up in the series finale against Texas.
At home plate, Leonard tries to keep it simple: see the ball, hit the ball.
While there is a simplicity to his approach at home plate, there is a tenacity he brings with him to the stadium every day that has led him to success.
“He’s one of the toughest kids ever,” WVU head coach Randy Mazey said. “I didn’t know it at the time [we were recruiting Leonard], but he was a hockey player growing up. And I have a thing for hockey players. If I hadn’t known I could probably guess, because of the way he was.
Growing up in Wisconsin, it’s probably only natural that Leonard grew up with a hockey stick in one hand. He studied hockey for three years at River Valley High School, playing defense for the Blackhawks.
Asked about his skipper’s remarks after Sunday’s win, Leonard said he tries to bring that toughness to the grassroots stage every day.
“I like to think that I am [tough]. I like to think I bring courage with it,” he said. “I think as a JUCO player there’s always the stigma around them that we’re brave and tough, and I like to take that too.”
Leonard showed his captain a picture or two of him from his hockey days. One, in particular, he shared with Mazey is a snapshot of Leonard leveling an opposing player near center ice.
Mazey shared videos and photos of her two children, Weston and Sierra
According to the head coach, Leonard will likely face some kind of surgery at the end of the Mountaineers season.
“He plays all the time, but he doesn’t care at all,” Mazey said. “He’s just trying to represent this university that he didn’t know about a year ago at this time.”
Leonard was sidelined a few games earlier this year with a hand injury, but he’s come back and has been swinging the bat well ever since.
Last week he batted .400 with a pair of extra hits and six RBIs. His strong week on the flat was rewarded with Big 12 Co-Newcomer of the Week honors.
The West Virginia baseball team surely had a rollercoaster weekend, dropping both legs of a doubleheader on Saturday in Texas, but salvaging the series finale on Sunday with a thrilling 8-6 win. The win was key for the Mountaineers, who with it remain ahead of the Longhorns in the Big 12 standings with two more weekend series to go in the campaign. Ryan Decker and Sam Coniglio break down everything that happened over the weekend and look to the rest of the season for WVU. Subscribe on your favorite podcast platform to receive future episodes. Gold and Blue Nation is the local leader in Mountaineer sports news, producing comprehensive coverage on TV and online. Download the free Gold and Blue Nation app through your favorite app store so you’re never more than a touch away from our WVU sports coverage, highlights and archived shows.
Even better, he had at least one hit in five of his last six games played. During that span, Leonard batted for a .556 average with four extra hits and eight RBIs.
Leonard is tied for third among the Mountaineers with a .310 batting average. He leads the team with .425 on-base percentage and is third in the club with .865 OPS.
Although he swung the bat well, he was also a solid addition to the team, both behind home plate and at third base.
Receiver is a position Leonard didn’t play much of until he got to college. Since then, he hasn’t played much on the left side of the infield, where he grew up playing on the diamond. He has been prominent both as a WVU backstop and more recently in the hot corner.
“He hasn’t played a lot there this year, but he’s played really well for us,” Mazey said of Virginia Tech’s transfer ability at third base.
The Mountaineers are 5-6 in their last 11 games, but have twice denied an opposing team a three-game sweep on the final day of a series.
Leonard noted the skills and potential he saw in this team when he first arrived in Morgantown after a year with the Hokies. His skill and potential aside, it’s his tenacity that’s shown throughout the WVU roster this season.
“Our team, as a whole, we are resilient. We don’t like to lose, especially the way we did [Saturday]”, Leonardo said. “I think the way our team is, and the personality that we have in our team, it kind of showed today that we’re not giving up. It’s who we are.
Leonard and West Virginia host Pittsburgh on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in the team’s final non-conference game of the season. After that, they will face a good team from Oklahoma before finishing the regular season at home against a club from Kansas State who are in the bottom third of the league.
After that, the Mountaineers will begin what they hope will be a long playoff run at the Big 12 Championship in Arlington, Texas. If another NCAA Tournament appearance is in the cards for this team, they will more than likely be on the road.
But that doesn’t bother this group.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that this team can compete with any team in the country,” Leonard said.