Fox finds a home at third base

Justin Fox won’t argue about third base being the hot corner.

He’s had enough encounters with batted balls arriving to him at warp speed as the starting third baseman at West Virginia University to confirm the sport’s moniker.

“Balls are hit a lot faster than in high school,” said the junior from New Martinsville. “I’ve probably had four to five balls smoked down there. I just get in front and hope it hits my glove and not in the teeth.”

Following an illustrious career at Magnolia High School, Fox arrived in Morgantown and started four games as a freshman while appearing in a total of 15. He received additional playing time the following season with 14 starts and batted .232 with five runs scored and seven runs-batted-in.

The hitting came around during the offseason while playing in a league based in Leesburg, Fla.

“I started really hot and was hitting .400 toward the end of the summer,” Fox said. “I started to slack off a little bit at the end of the season, but I still hit it pretty decent.”

Fox experienced a setback during fall ball after severely spraining his ankle. When spring practice opened, Fox joined a handful of Mountaineer players hoping to secure a starting role at third base.

“I started a couple of games and have started ever since,” Fox said.

After last weekend’s series at UNC Wilmington, Fox had made 17 starts without making an error. His offensive numbers include a .220 (13-of-59) batting average with eight RBIs. Two of those RBIs served as insurance runs in last week’s 5-1 win over 12th-ranked North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C.

“I have a lot of confidence in the field and feel every ball hit my way I am going to make the play,” Fox said. “Last year, I was a utility player and filled in at second base, third base and right field. I was all over the place.

“Now that I am at third base, I’ve found my place. I’m able to get comfortable at one spot instead of going different places from one day to another.”

Under second-year head coach Randy Mazey, WVU has a 12-8 record. Last season, the Mountaineers were projected to finish last in the Big 12 Conference, but took third when the dust settled.

“We didn’t do anything like make predictions at the beginning of the season – coach says to stay with the process and outcomes will happen,” Fox said. “I think we will have a really good year. We have an all-around good pitching staff. The bats are hitting well and I think a lot of people are expecting big things out of us this year.”

Majoring in athletic coaching, Fox is also performing well in the classroom. He earned a spot on both the Big 12 Comissioner’s Honor Roll and Garrett Ford Academic Honor Roll.

Contact Kerry Patrick at kpatrick@newsandsentinel.com