In a lengthy game devoid of rhythm, West Virginia got a bit of redemption for an earlier loss to Marshall with a 9-3 win at Monongalia County Ballpark on Wednesday evening.
The teams combined to leave 17 runners on base, but WVU recorded 11 hits and scored twice in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings to put the game away on an evening in which both teams went deep into their bullpens. Seven different Mountaineers had hits and an identical number scored in the decisive win.
“I like the way guys are competing,” Mountaineer head coach Randy Mazey said. “We have guys that are making adjustments, and it’s tough to do that in the middle of the season when you are playing more than practicing. They are working really hard at it. The compete level is really high right now. I think there are several guys who are swinging it right now as well as they have at any point in the season.”
WVU starting pitcher Jake Carr again battled location issues in the early going, grooving a pair of pitches in the first inning that the Herd jumped on for two singles around a sacrifice bunt to give them a 1-0 lead.
Carr also hit a batter in the second, but got the third of three groundball outs to second baseman Tyler Doanes to avoid any additional damage. He then got five consecutive outs before an error and a walk put two Herd runners aboard in the fourth, but struck out the last batter he faced to end that threat.
West Virginia (13-14, 4-5) rallied to take the lead in the bottom of the second with a pair of runs, but continued to struggle with runners in scoring position. The Mountaineers loaded the bases twice, once with none out and once with one, but produced just an RBI groundout and a run-scoring single, with a double play ending the inning.
Two innings later, Austin Davis delivered a run scoring double for WVU with two out, but again a chance for more went by the boards as McGwire Holbrook was thrown out at the plate trying to score from first on Davis’ hit.
WVU added two more runs in the bottom of the fifth. Doanes singled and Victor Scott walked, but Doanes was thrown out attempting to steal third. With two out, Hudson Byorick’s soft liner to right was misplayed by Herd rightfielder Devin Ward, and when the ball rolled all the way to the wall Scott scored and Byorick ended up on third with a triple. After a Vince Ippoliti walk, West Virginia executed an unexpected double steal, which confounded Herd pitcher Josh Zeboskey, who spun off the mound to look at Ippoliti while Byorick broke for home. Zeboskey never let the ball go as the Mountaineers pushed their advantage to 6-1.
Speed from unlikely sources continued in the sixth for the Mountaineers when Kevin Brophy was hit by a pitch, stole second, moved to third on a Holbrook single and scored by beating a throw from third baseman Tyler Cox on a Doanes grounder. WVU added another when Byorick walked with the bases loaded to make it 7-1.
Approaching the game as a bullpen day, WVU relievers combined with Carr to hold the Herd hitless from the second through the sixth innings. In the seventh, Zach Ottinger hit a pair of batters and allowed an RBI single to Devin Ward, then threw wildly to first on a Will Leitch grounder, which scored Cox, reducing the deficit to 7-3.
WVU got the runs back in the bottom of the frame on Doanes’ two-out blooper to left, which fell among three Herd defenders to score Davis and Dominic Ragazzo.
Carr went four innings to get the win, allowing two hits and a walk while hitting another batter. The single earned run allowed, though, provided at least a bit of encouragement for him as he works to regain his form of a year ago.
“We need somebody else to step up, and we are trying to find pieces,” Mazey said of Carr, but also including others who will have to fill starting slots. “It was good to see him go out there and throw up some zeroes. He looked a little bit like the Jake Carr of old.”
Fourteen position players saw action for WVU. Doanes was 2-5 with three RBI, while Davis went 2-3 while driving two in. Holbrook was a perfect 3-3 at the plate, and Byorick and Brophy each scored twice.
West Virginia remains at home for a three-game Big 12 weekend series against Texas Tech. The Red Raiders stand fourth in the league at 5-4, one spot ahead of WVU at 4-5. Despite that one game separation, the two squads are far apart in RPI, as Tech held down the 14th spot nationally prior to Wednesday’s action, while the Mountaineers are 98th.