Brophy’s Three Home Runs Lead WVU To Win Over Illinois
Sophomore first baseman Kevin Brophy hit three home runs, including a sixth-inning grand slam, to propel the West Virginia University baseball team to a 10-8 victory over Illinois on Saturday afternoon at Springs Brooks Stadium in Conway, South Carolina.
Brophy’s three home runs, tied for the second most in a single game team history, came with eight RBIs, tied for fifth-most in the Mountaineer record books. Along with his first career grand slam in the seventh inning, which broke a 6-6 tie, Brophy hit a three-run home run in the first inning and a solo homer in the sixth.
It was all part of a season-best 10-run day for the Mountaineers (2-3), who had a season-high-tying 10 hits and did not commit an error. WVU took an early 4-0 lead and extended it to 6-0 in the sixth inning before the Illini (1-3) stormed back with six runs in the bottom of the sixth. WVU answered with Brophy’s grand slam in the seventh while shutting Illinois down until it scored a pair in the ninth.
“I am pretty encouraged, I thought we played a good game,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “Illinois battled its way back into it, but I thought we showed good signs of pitching pretty well. Christian Young and Kade Strowd both pitched well, and Sam Kessler got another save.”
Prior to Saturday’s game, Brophy had one career home run and five career RBIs. It was his first career multi-homer game and easily eclipsed his previous single-game high of two RBIs.
Brophy’s three home runs and eight RBIs are the most by a Mountaineer since Grant Buckner had three homers and a program-record 10 RBIs on May 8, 2010, vs. Notre Dame. Brophy is one of six Mountaineers all-time to hit three or more home runs in a game and one of six to have eight or more RBIs.
“In my career, I don’t remember having a guy have as good a game as Kevin Brophy had today,” Mazey added. “He has a really good approach at the plate. He’s getting pitches to hit and taking advantage of them. That’s what good hitters do.”
Junior right-hander Christian Young picked up his first career win as a Mountaineer, tossing 3.0 innings in relief while striking out five and allowing two runs on two hits with no walks. Young’s first two strikeouts came in the sixth, after Illinois tied the game at 6-6. Sophomore righty Sam Kessler got the final two outs of the game to earn his second save of the year.
Sophomore right-hander Kade Strowd pitched into the sixth inning in his first start of the season. He allowed two runs on four hits with three strikeouts and two walks in 5.0 innings.
The Mountaineers wasted no time in getting on the board, jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning. Junior catcher Ivan Gonzalez got things started with a one-out walk and advanced to second on a balk. Junior right fielder Darius Hill drove him home with a double. A walk followed before Brophy’s three-run home run to left field.
Strowd answered with a perfect bottom of the first and got a double play to end the second. He stranded one in the third and fourth before the Mountaineers added a run in the fifth to extend their lead to 5-0.
Just like in the first, Gonzalez drew a one-out walk and Hill followed with a double to put runners on second and third with one out. Junior third baseman Andrew Zitel then laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt, scoring Gonzalez.
Brophy made it 6-0 in the sixth with his second home run of the day to left-center.
Illinois tied the game at 6-6 in the sixth. A two-run home run off Strowd signaled the end of his day. A grand slam off the WVU bullpen followed before junior right-hander Christian Young came in and got a pair of strikeouts to end the inning.
West Virginia answered right back though, thanks to Brophy’s grand slam that traveled 490 feet to left-center. Gonzalez opened the inning with a single, and Zitel followed with a single of his own to put two runners on. After a pitching change, sophomore pinch-hitter Isaiah Kearns drew a walk to load the bases. That set up Brophy, and on the second pitch of the at-bat a 6-6 game turned into a 10-6 Mountaineer lead.
Young shut down Illinois with perfect seventh and eighth innings. Back-to-back one-out hits and a hit batter loaded the bases in the ninth for the Illini. Kessler relieved Young, and after a one-run single, got a sacrifice fly for the second out. That made it 10-8 with the winning run at the plate, but Kessler got a strikeout to end the game and secure the WVU win.
West Virginia’s weekend continues tonight against VCU, with first pitch moved back an hour to 7 p.m. ET. WVU and host Coastal Carolina square off on Sunday, Feb. 25, at 2:30 p.m., to conclude the weekend.
NOTES: West Virginia improved to 2-3 on the season and 1-1 in neutral-site contests … Kevin Brophy’s three home runs is tied for second-most by a Mountaineer in a single game in team history, while his eight RBIs are tied for fifth-most and two shy of tying the program record … Both the three home runs and eight RBIs are the most since Grant Buckner hit three home runs and had a WVU-record 10 RBIs on May 8, 2010, vs. Notre Dame … Bill Biddle owns the school record for home runs in a game with four, set on May 9, 1947, vs. the Quantico Marines … Starter Kade Strowd pitched 5.0 innings and allowed two runs on four hits with three strikeouts and two walks while making his first start of the season … Christian Young earned his first win as a Mountaineer, pitching 3.0 innings with a career-best five strikeouts while allowing two runs on two hits with no walks … Sam Kessler picked up his second save of the year … Ivan Gonzales had two hits and two walks and scored a career-high-tying three runs.