By any measure, Mountaineer second baseman Billy Fleming is a leader. At the plate, he finished second on the team with a .351 batting average, tied for second in slugging percentage (.423) and had a team best on-base percentage of .407. In the field, he committed just four errors in 53 games. And in the dugout, perhaps where it counts the most, he was always engaged, encouraging teammates and promoting effort, especially when things weren't going West Virginia's way.
After WVU trailed for most of its first two games in Oklahoma City, Fleming took matters into his own hands, cracking a home run in WVU's first at-bat to give the Mountaineers a 1-0 lead over Baylor in an elimination game. While that wasn't enough to get the team the win it needed to stay alive, it was just one more demonstration of the junior's ability to produce.
"I just got an inside fastball and put a good swing on it," Fleming said. "I was just trying to hit it hard and get us off to a good start, and it went over the fence. Off the bat I knew I caught it pretty good."
From there on, though, things went downhill. Errors in the field both mental and physical and poor at-bats in the plates sent the Mountaineers home. It was clearly an atypical performance for a Randy Mazey-coached West Virginia team, and one that was tough to figure out.
"It just seemed like things happened very quickly and piled up. It was just one of those things where you aren't playing very good, and things seem to pile up on top of you," Fleming said.
Anyone that has played sports knows what Fleming is trying to explain. There are games when no matter what you try, no matter what happens, the outcome isn't going to go in your favor. The Baylor game had that feel, and while WVU continued to battle, the errors and lack of production at the plate likely ended the season for the Mountaineers.
Up next for Fleming is a possible draft selection. The Major League Baseball draft commences on June 5, and continues for two more days. Fleming, who has shown some increased pop in his bat over the final weeks of the season, figures to have his name called at some point during the proceedings, but hasn't thought much about it yet, even though it's just more than two weeks away.
"It's a little bit down the road," he said following the Baylor game. "I don't know what's going to happen, and really no one does, so I'm just going to wait and see. I'm not going to think about that too much."
Fleming will be just one of a number of Mountaineer juniors who will likely have a decision to make concerning their baseball futures once the draft concludes. While he may not have made a decision yet, one thing is sure: West Virginia would lose a huge linchpin of its team if he is drafted and goes on to the pros.