MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — WVU freshman pitcher Aidan Major is just nine appearances into his Mountaineer career, but he probably already has a favorite opponent. Following a start against Pitt three weeks ago in which he worked three innings without giving up a hit, he doubled down on that effort on Tuesday night at Monongalia County Ballpark, stifling the Panthers for six innings, again allowing no hits while striking out eight. That gives him 14 career Ks against Pitt, and more importantly gave WVU another solid RPI win as the Mountaineers cruised to a 9-1 decision and a win in the season series.
The Mill Hall, Pennsylvania, native was in a comfort zone from the start, facing just one batter over the minimum through five innings, then picking off a Pitt runner to end the sixth after walking two.
“Just getting ahead in the count early, that’s something that Coach Mazey has emphasized all year,” Major said of the key to his performance against the Panthers.
By the time Major faced that bit of fifth inning adversity, the Mountaineers (29-18) had the game firmly in hand. For the 21st time in 47 games this year, West Virginia scored in the first inning — an occurrence that typically portends Mountaineer success. That was the case again as the Mountaineers put up three runs in their first plate appearance to take a 3-0 lead. West Virginia is now 16-5 in games in which it scores in the opening frame.
After Sunday’s game against Texas, in which almost all of West Virginia’s productivity came from the bottom of the order, WVU got out of the box quickly. Austin Davis singled to second base and JJ Wetherholt laced a hit to left center, following in Davis’ tracks to earn a double. One batter later, McGwire Holbrook bounced a single up the middle to score both, and after Victor Scott lasered a liner right at the second baseman for an out, Braden Barry set up the third run by reaching on a fielder’s choice, stealing second, and motoring to the plate on Kevin Dowdell’s RBI double.
Three innings later Scott, who hasn’t gotten a lot of reward for some very hard hit balls recently, made sure that Pitt had no chance to rob him of some productivity. He blasted a three-run homer onto the roof of the clubhouse beyond the right field fence, clearing the Mountaineer bullpen and the concourse behind it with ease. That monster shot, which traveled 409 feet, doubled WVU’s lead to 6-0.
After Major departed, Pitt (26-20) broke up the no-hitter and got on the board with a solo home run off Zach Ottinger in the top of the seventh, but any celebration was short-lived when Braden Barry cranked his own three-run homer to left in the bottom of the frame.
The Mountaineers made the most of their nine hits, two of which accrued to Davis and Wetherholt. Holbrook had two RBI, joining Scott and Barry with three each, and West Virginia also benefited from eight walks, with Holbrook working three.
West Virginia now hits the road for Norman, Oklahoma, where it will face the Sooners in a three game series beginning Friday, May 12.
“We know it won’t be easy, but we know we can go in there and get it done,” Major said of WVU’s outlook.
SEAMS AND BARRELS
Ron Washington had both of Pitt’s hits n the evening. The remainder of the Panther lineup was 0-26 at the plate.
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The crowd of 3,169 was the ninth largest in Mon County Ballpark history.
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Following West Virginia’s 3-2 win over the Panthers on April 20, suggestions from various spots in the Pitt camp that the number of missing starters from the normal Panther lineup was one of the main reasons for the defeat. Whether or not that provided motivational fuel for WVU is difficult to determine, but there was no question that the Mountaineers came out with something to prove in their final non-conference game of the regular season.