WVU Rides Cold Weather Strength To Win Over Kennesaw State
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — Trips to the beach are supposed to involve sun, shorts and frosty drinks. Add WVU baseball to the mix, though, and it seems as if the menu turns to blustery wind, multiple clothing layers and hot chocolate.
When the Mountaineers took the field for Friday’s game against Kennesaw State in the Brittain Resorts Invitational at TicketReturn.Com field, the outfield wall thermometer read 39 degrees — making WVU feel right at home, even though it had headed south to escape the cold that usually grips its campus this time of year.
Riding the second consecutive strong performance from Friday night starter Jackson Wolf, the Mountaineers shrugged off the cold and blustery conditions. Dominating the Owls from the outset, WVU put up six runs in the first three innings and cruised to a 7-1 win.
“We’ve been practicing in it, so that’s why we say ‘Advantage, Mountaineers’ when it’s like this,” head coach Randy Mazey said. “We showed up today. We had energy throughout the game. The temperature meant nothing to us today.”
Wolf, buoyed by four runs of support in the first inning and two more in the second, went seven innings for the Mountaineers, allowing only an unearned run on six hits. He struck out eight Owls while walking only two, and also got help behind him in the field. WVU turned double plays in the second, third and sixth innings, erasing three of the nine baserunners he allowed.
“I’m no really worried about where I am (in the rotation),” the junior left-hander said. “It’s tough sometimes (pitching in weather like this, but I’m from Ohio, I live in this. Once you get warmed up, it doesn’t become something you focus on.”
The Mountaineers got to Owl starter Ryan Kennedy early, roughing him up with eight hits that produced the six runs. Braden Zarbnisky led off with a single to the left side, moved to second on Tyler Doanes bunt, then scooted to third on a wild pitch. Matt McCormack walked behind him, and Paul McIntosh followed with an RBI single that scored Zarbnisky.
“That’s big-time out of the guys,” Wolf said of the early support. “Anytime you can pitch with a lead, it gives you more confidence. It’s huge. Ten going back out there and throwing up a zero in the next frame, everything was going good.”
One batter latter, Kevin Brophy blasted a shot deep to right center field, but in the shadow of the wall and the blustery conditions, no one was exactly sure where the ball landed, including the umpires. Responding to shouts of “Run!” from the dugout, Brophy followed McIntosh and McCormick to the plate, but after a discussion the home plate umpire ruled that the ball bounced over the fence.
Again, no matter.
Although that kept WVU’s scoring on the Brophy hit to just one, Vince Ippoliti picked up the slack with a two-RBI single, bringing home McIntosh and a joyous Zarbnisky in pushing the score to 4-0.
“That was a really, really good inning. It was indicative of our lineup. Guys at the top of the lineup get on base, move runners and steal bases, and the guys in the middle drove them in. That’s what happened,” Mazey said.
In the third, WVU loaded the bases with none out, and Austin Davis’ flare to right field pushed McIntosh across. Tevin Tucker hit into a force play at second that allowed Victor Scott to score, giving WVU a 6-0 lead, but a really big number eluded the Mountaineers when Zarbnisky struck out.
Three consecutive in Owl hits in the top of the seventh finally put them on the board against Wolf, but West Virginia got that marker back in the eight when pinch runner Dominic Ragazzo scooted home from third while Austin Davis was involved in a rundown between first and second. Reliever Beau Lowery faced just one batter over the minimum in the final two innings to efficiently close out the game for the Mountaineers.
SEAMS AND BARRELS
Zarbnisky and McIntosh each had two hits for WVU, while Austin Davis was 3-4. Vince Ippolit made the most of his one hit with two RBI.
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West Virginia (4-1) faces St. Joseph’s at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday afternoon in Myrtle Beach. The Hawks are just 2-3 this year, but knocked off host Coastal Carolina on Friday, and also own a win over Ohio State.
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Righthander Ryan Bergert will get the start for West Virginia.