Avalanche of Hits Ends WVU’s Baseball Season
By Kevin Kinder
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – West Virginia’s run to the regional finals ended in a barrage of Wake Forest hits as the Deacons hit three home runs and rang up a 12-8 victory to end the Mountaineers’ season. Wake had 16 hits overall and scored in four of the first five innings to cruise to the win.
Wake outfielder Stuart Fairchild, labeled by Randy Mazey on Friday as perhaps the best player WVU has faced all year, drove in six runs on a pair of homers, including a grand slam. That shot, a line drive that might not have been more that 20 feet off the ground on its trip out of the park, gave the Deacons an 8-4 lead in the fourth, and was encored by a two-run long ball from designated hitter Ben Breazeale. Fairchild added two more runs one inning later on a 305-foot fly ball that turned into a home run due to the bandbox dimensions of David Couch Ballpark.
WVU managed to respond in some manner to Wake Forest’s first four scoring innings, but couldn’t match the volume of Deacon hits, or produce with two outs. The Mountaineers scored one in the first on Darius Hill’s RBI double and two more in the second when Kyle Gray homered, but that still left them trailing by one run at 4-3. Then came the big fourth inning, and although West Virginia got three back on a pair of RBI doubles and a wild pitch, the Deacons remained in control of the game. West Virginia was unable to complete a single 1-2-3 inning until the ninth, and was constantly under pressure from the Wake offense. The Mountaineers threw 201 pitches in the contest as Wake sent 49 batters to the plate.
The Mountaineers rallied in the eighth, loading the bases for Ivan Gonzalez, who laced a double down the left field line to drive in two runs. Deacon reliever Griffin Roberts, who possesses a sharply breaking slider, benefited from a pair of very generous calls on balls that didn’t touch the zone, but were called third strikes by home plate umpire Ryan Morehead to escape more damage. Mazey gave Morehead an earful on his trip back to the dugout from the third base coaching box, but that did nothing to change the calls.
WFU was 6-14 and had five RBIs in two-out situations, while the Mountaineers were only 3-11 with just three batted in. Wake was also a ridiculous 19-27 in advancement opportunities, and capitalized on routinely, going 8-15 with runners in scoring position.
BJ Myers tried to bounce back from a 77-pitch relief performance on Friday in getting the call from head coach Randy Mazey, but the junior didn’t have much left in the tank. The Deacons teed off on him early and often, rapping ten hits and scoring eight runs (all earned) in just three innings. Myers, normally a strikeout pitcher, had just one against the 21 batters he faced.
Gonzalez had three hits, two doubles and three RBI, while and Austin had two hits. Gray had the home run and two RBI.
West Virginia completed its season with a 36-26 overall record. The Mountaineers advanced to an NCAA Regional final for just the third time in its baseball history, and the first time since 1996.