Manoah Earns First Career Victory as Mountaineers Roll Past Gardner-Webb
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – It was a far cry from Saturday’s 15 hit, 15 run offensive output, but West Virginia used a strong start from Alek Manoah and a solid relief appearance from Jackson Sigman to earn a 4-3 victory over Gardner-Webb on Senior Day here Sunday.
Despite an average day from the plate the Mountaineers got their bats going in the bottom of the first, scoring two runs off of three hits in the inning. After a pair of singles and a walk loaded the bases, Darius Hill belted an 0-2 pitch between first and second that brought home two runs and gave Alek Manoah and the Mountaineers (30-20) a cushion to work with right out of the gate.
The next few innings weren’t nearly as smooth, however, as West Virginia struggled to put together any more offense against Gardner-Webb (22-27) starter Landon Mitchell. The freshman lasted 5.2 innings and hadn’t allowed a hit since the second inning when he left the game in the sixth.
Unfortunately for Mitchell, WVU freshman Alek Manoah was even better. The big bodied right-hander frustrated Bulldog batters for the better part of the afternoon as he struck out seven in 5.2 innings of work and allowed just one earned run in the third inning when Corey Howard doubled down the third base line.
The 2-1 score held until the sixth inning when Ivan Gonzalez drew a walk to lead off the inning. Gonzalez quickly stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch, enabling Kyle Davis to bring him home on a sac fly to deep left field. West Virginia added another insurance run in the seventh when Kyle Gray brought home Chase Illig on a groundout to push the lead out to 4-1.
In the eighth, head coach Randy Mazey decided to give freshman Kade Strowd an inning of work after Jackson Sigman pitched 2.1 solid innings of baseball. Strowd struggled with his command, however, and walked a batter and allowed a ground rule double to start off the inning. After the shaky start, the freshman reliever threw a wild pitch that scored a run and allowed a sacrifice fly to score another, cutting the Mountaineer lead to 4-3 heading to the bottom half of the inning.
Jackson Cramer registered a single for his second hit of the game, but other than that the Mountaineers came up empty-handed, setting up Braden Zarbnisky for a high pressure save situation in the top of the ninth.
Zarbnisky immediately allowed a double but showed ice cold composure and struck out the next three batters with the tying runner in scoring position to earn his fifth save of the season. The 4-3 tally also gave freshman Alek Manoah earned his first career win.
West Virginia will take on Pittsburgh in the final home game of the season on Tuesday evening before traveling to Texas for the final Big 12 series of the year. Entering Sunday’s contest WVU was No.18 in the RPI; if it can split the final four games of the season it should almost be a lock to make an NCAA regional for the first time since 1996.