Jackson Sigman Again Excellent As Mountaineers Win Fourth Straight
By Matt Keller
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Isaiah Kearns and Jackson Sigman combined to pitch a three-hit shutout as West Virginia beat Pitt 2-0 on Tuesday to sweep the season series.
Kearns scattered just three hits over 5.2 innings before giving way to Sigman, who completely shut down the Panthers as WVU won for the fifth time in six games. Sigman retired the final 10 batters he faced in order while recording three strikeouts with a daunting two-seam fastball that was nearly untouchable.
“He’s so valuable for us,” head coach Randy Mazey said. “Proud of the adjustment he made in the middle of this season. Isaiah Kearns, right when we needed a great start out of a freshman, he came out here on a big stage and in a big moment for a freshman from Pennsylvania who was recruited by both schools.”
Sigman was plagued by pitches up in the zone earlier in the year, but a change in his delivery got the fastball location down, where he could induce groundouts and return to form. That’s exactly what has happened over his last five appearances, when the sidearm right-hander has pitched a combined 11.2 innings and allowed just three hits with one earned run. Pitt never came close to having a hitter reach base, as just three balls left the infield over the final 10 batters – the final one a lazy fly to right that ended the game and sealed a two-game season sweep of the Panthers when paired with an 8-4 WVU road win on March 28.
“This is what I have been working for all year,” said Sigman, a senior who set a new career mark for single season appearances with his 31st, which is also a school record. “I had some hiccups in the middle of the season. But this is the most important time of the year, and if you can find that groove at the end of the year, that’s what we need.”
And while Sigman was in the groove, West Virginia’s offense couldn’t find any. It went scoreless over the first five frames, breaking through only in the sixth inning when Braden Zarbnisky walked and Kyle Davis drove him in with an RBI triple to the left-centerfield gap. It was Davis’ third triple of the season and his team-leading 40th RBI. Darius Hill followed with an RBI single to right field to plate Davis, and West Virginia had the only runs needed. The two runs are the fewest in a WVU win this season, and represent the first victory in 10 games for the Mountaineers this year when scoring that amount.
The teams were locked in the scoreless tie through five. WVU managed five hits to that point – it finished with seven – but could move just two runners past first base. The best chances came in the second and fourth innings, when the Mountaineers moved runners into scoring position with one out, but were unable to advance them. Each team left five on in front of 2,815, the largest midweek home crowd of the year.
“It’s good to schedule Pitt in the last home game of the year,” Mazey said. “That brings them out in bunches. Great crowds all season long.”
Sigman (4-4) picked up the win, while Pitt’s TJ Pagan (1-1) was tagged with a loss after allowing the two runs on two hits. The Panthers tallied just three hits in losing for a fourth straight time and the seventh time in eight games. Davis, Hill and Jackson Cramer each had two hits for West Virginia (31-20), which beat Pitt (22-28) for the ninth time in 13 series games.
“People have no idea what we have been through this year,” Mazey said without expanding upon the issue. “If people had any idea the adversity we have overcome in this program this year to get where we are, they would be super proud of everyone who wears this jersey.”
West Virginia has faced injuries to starting pitching, including Connor Doston and Michael Grove, who Mazey announced would not pitch at Texas this weekend. Infielder Marques Inman has also been sidelined with an ACL tear, along with other nagging injuries. Still, the Mountaineers have rebounded from a stretch of four losses in five games and nine in 16 during April to remain in the RPI top 20 and a tie for fouth in the Big 12, the nation’s top RPI conference.
Now, the Mountaineers have a chance to finish in either second place in the Big 12 or seventh, pending the last weekend series at Texas. The results there will factor heavily into the potential NCAA Tournament seeding for WVU, which looks as though it will make the field for the first time since 1996.
“There is no way to overemphasize the importance of what we are facing this weekend,” Mazey said. “Every time our kids face a challenge they step up, and we have always played pretty well against Texas, here and there. We have a lot of Texas kids and they get excited to play against the Longhorns. We are going to start thinking about them right away. We are not going to celebrate anything, because we really haven’t accomplisyed any of the goals we set.”
Note: Kyle Davis has reached base in a team-high 21 consecutive games, a stretch that included a team-best 12-game hitting streak.