Bats Break Out For WVU Vs. William & Mary
It’s been a story of feast or famine for West Virginia at the plate in this young 2020 baseball season. The Mountaineers scored 15 and seven runs in two of their first nine games, but in seven others averaged just 2.4 on their way to a 5-4 record. On Saturday, though, WVU broke out with another big game, capitalizing on early scoring opportunities to scored nine runs in the first three innings en route to a 13-4 win over William & Mary.
As they have on several occasions this season, Braden Zarbnisky and Tyler Doanes set the table in the first innng by both reaching base, but this time, the middle of the Mountaineer order capitalized. Vince Ippoliti smacked a two-run double to right center to bring both home, and after Alec Burns and Kevin Brophy reached base, Paul McIntosh doubled down on the fun with one of his own the opposite way, scoring all three baserunners to push the lead to 5-0.
WVU (6-4) manufactured another run in the second when Zarbnisky got abord via an infield single, moved to second on a wild pitch, stole third, then scored on Doanes’ groundout.
That set Mountaineer starter Ryan Bergert up with a six-run cushion, which he needed after encoutering a rocky third inning. Three walks, combined with three Tribe hits, pushed four runs across to cut the lead to 6-4, but WVU immediately went back to work at the plate in the top of the third.
Burns led off with a double, and Brophy, Dominic Ragazzo, Tevin Tucker and Zarbnisky all singled, plating three more runs to re-establish some breathing room at 9-4. Bergert settled in, retiring the next nine batters before giving way to Zach Ottinger with two out in the sixth. Ottinger filled the middle relief role well, allowing just a single and a walk in the eighth, but keeping the plate clean in 2.1 innings of work while striking out four.
In the meatime, WVU continued to add to the lead. McIntosh drove Ippoliti home with a sacrifice fly in the seventh, and the top of the order again set the stage in the eighth when Zarbnisky doubled, Austin Davis walked and Doanes singled to center. Ippoliti followed with another RBI hit, and Brophy closed out the scoring with a fielder’s choice RBI that put the final margin at 13-4.
Zarbnisky continued his early season tear with four hits in five at-bats with three runs scored and two RBI. McIntosh drove in five runs, while Ippoliti (three hits) Doanes and Brophy (two each) had multi-hit games.
Bergert (2-0) got the win while yielding four earned runs in 5.2 innings of work. Some uncharacteristic control issues hurt him, as he walked four and had a wild pitch, but that was nothing that a few runs of support couldn’t overcome, as he also struck out six while putting up five excellent innings against just the one tough frame. In all, three Mountaineer pitchers rang up 13 strikeouts on the day.
WVU closes out its play in the Central Virginia Challenge with a Sunday game against Richmond at Pitt Field, with first pitch set for noon.
SEAMS AND BARRELS
WVU again shuffled its lineup and personnel as it continued its search for productive hitting. McIntosh got a day off behind the plate while hitting in the DH role, with Ippoliti taking his place on the field. Burns got the start at first and produced a 1-2 day with two runs scored. Ragazzo got his first start of the season and was 1-5 with a run scored.
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After a very tough start to his collegiate career which included two appearances in which he did not record an out, freshman Carter Lyles got a tast of success while pitching the ninth. He did give up a walk, a wild pitch and a balk, which put a runner on third, but also produced three strikeouts in the final inning to keep the Tribe off the scoreboard.
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Zarbnisky is hitting .488 on the season with an OPS of 1.092. He leads the team in hits, runs scored and total bases and is second in steals.