Bergert Fans Career-Best 14 As WVU Dispatches St. Joseph’s
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — Early in the season, teams are often still feeling their way around, which can result in play that is less than crisp. For West Virginia’s baseball squad, at least early in the 2020 campaign, that hasn’t been the case. The Mountaineers have been sharp the majority of the time, and turned in another such nine innings in their 5-1 win over St. Joseph’s on Saturday afternoon at TicketReturn.com Stadium.
The win was the fourth in a row for WVU, moving them to 5-1 on the season. The Hawks, who own a pair of wins over Ohio State and Coastal Carolina, fell to 2-4.
“I didn’t know we were going to pitch so well early in the season,” head coach Randy Mazey admitted. “But if you are going to do something well early in the season, (pitching is) what you want.”
The game, played under sunny skies and much milder conditions that Friday’s freezefest, evolved into a pitchers’ duel. A pair of Ryans, West Virginia’s Bergert and St. Joseph’s Devine, allowed a combined total of just three runs and five hits as they squared off over eight innings. Bergert (1-0) was just a bit better, yielding only two hits and one earned run while showing masterful control. He threw 78 strikes in 111 pitches, striking out 14 Hawks while walking just one. Devine, a sidewinder whose sinker kept the Mountaineers chasing out of the zone for much of the day, allowed only three hits, but saw two WVU runs cross the plate against him as he dropped to 0-1.
The Mountaineers jumped out on top for the second time in as many days as Paul McIntosh jumped on one of Devine’s few mistakes and crushed it deep over the left field wall in the top of the second. Two innings later, WVU got back-to-back extra base hits from Tyler Doanes and Matt McCormick to push the lead to 2-0. Doanes tripled down the right field line, and McCormick followed with a blooper that fell inside the left field line.
From there, however, Devine settled in, retiring 14 of the next 15 hitters he faced. The sole outlier, Doanes, reached on a walk but was erased by a double play.
Bergert was untouchable through six innings, but the Hawks found some lightning in the seventh when Nate Thomas matched McIntosh’s blast with a no-doubter of his own to right field, cutting the deficit to 2-1.
One inning later, the Hawks mounted their only other scoring threat of the game when James McConnon was hit by a pitch and sacrificed to second. Bergert, though, was equal to the challenge, striking out the final two batters of the inning to preserve the 2-1 lead.
WVU finally got some breathing room in the top of the ninth, and it was their signature aggressive baserunning which provided it. Doanes and McCormick led off with back-to-back singles to put runners at the corners, and McCormick soon moved up to second on a wild pitch. McIntosh got his second RBI of the day when his grounder to second was fielded and thrown to the plate in time to get Doanes, but it was dropped by McConnon, resulting in an overturn of the initial out call by home plate arbiter Mac Smith.
Doanes’ dash just served as prelude, though. Kevin Brophy, hardly anyone’s candidate for small ball, laid down a perfect squeeze bunt that scored McCormick. When the throw to first was made to retire Brophy, McIntosh steamed around third and beat the throw to the plate, marking the second time this year when the Mountaineers scored two runs on a bunt.
“Two RBI on a ball that went 10 feet, that’s a pretty good play,” said Mazey, who has instilled the aggressive approach in his team from day one. “That is the kind of player Kevin is. He will do whatever it takes for us to win games. There is no guy I’d rather have at the plate with a game on the line when it comes to being unselfish.”
“I love it when we do that,” said Doanes, who said it provides a bigger charge than a home run.
When the inning finally ended, WVU had a 5-1 lead, and the thoroughly deflated Hawks went down in the ninth on a soft liner to third and a 3-6 double play to end the game. Zach Ottinger pitched the final inning in relief for the Mountaineers.
Doanes and McCormick each had two hits for WVU. McIntosh had two RBI and scored twice, and Doanes also crossed the plate twice. The performance of the day, though, belonged to Bergert, who has now given up just one earned run in 14 innings of work this season.
“My fastball and slider were pretty dominant today,” Bergert understated. “My stuff was as good as it’s ever been. I had good command of all four of my pitches.”
West Virginia caps off its beach swing with a doubleheader on Sunday. The Mountaineers roll out early to face Illinois at TicketReturn.com field at 10:00 a.m., then will hustle the 12 miles to Spring Brooks Stadium in Conway to face host Coastal Carolina at 4:00 p.m.
Nick Carr will get the start against the Illini, with the finale starter yet to be named.
SEAMS AND BARRELS
Bergert’s 14 strikeouts were the most by a Mountaineer pitcher since Nick Snyder punched out 16 against Marshall on April 30, 2019.
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West Virginia’s work on the basepaths wasn’t all of the positive variety. WVU saw baserunners picked off in both the second and third innings to blunt potential scoring chances.
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WVU’s two runs on one sacrifice bunt drew appreciative cheers from some of the denizens of the press box. “That’s baseball!” one worker said with appreciation.