WVU Pitching Strong As Mountaineers Grab Series Victory With Sunday Win
Win enough series, and you’ll advance to the postseason.
While it’s still quite early in the schedule, West Virginia’s baseball team is following that pattern, and it continued on Sunday with a 2-1 win over Mercer in 11 fast-paced innings in Macon, Georgia. Paul McIntosh provided the winning margin with a two-out, solo home run to centerfield, making a winner of oufielder\reliever Braden Zarbnisky, who pitched the final two innings.. With the victory, the Mountaineers took the three-game set by the same 2-1 margin, and now stands at 10-5 on the season.
WVU earned the triumph with just five hits, again riding excellent pitching. Five Mountaineer hurlers combined to yield just four hits and one unearned run to the Bears, who fell to 11-3.
Mercer dented the plate first, getting its run on an infield single after Bill Knight doubled and moved to third on a passed ball. The Bears did manage more scoring opprtunities in fourth, fifth, 10th and 11th innings, advancing a runner to second in each, but West Virginia’s pitchers were equal to the challenge. Two of those innings, including the last, ended with strikeouts.
WVU tied the score in the fourth when Matt McCormick drove in Vince Ippoliti with an RBI double. That was West Virginia’s first hit of the game, and there weren’t many more to follow, as Mercer’s five pitchers matched West Virginia’s nearly throw for throw. The Bears did walk eight Mountaineer batters, but WVU stranded 11 runners overall, matching the number left wanting by Mercer.
The teams matched six scoreless innings after West Virginia’s run, but McIntosh broke the string with a first-pitch home run to center field after the first two hitters of the inning struck out. Mercer made a bid to tie the game again in its last at-bat, as Brandon Michie walked and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, but Zarbnisky fanned Alex Crotty and David Burke to end the game.
Freshman starter Jake Carr pitched 4.1 innings and gave up just the one unearned run on three hits and a walk while striking out five. Zach Ottinger, Madison Jeffrey and Haden Ebre combined for 4.1 hitless innings. Zarbnisky was the beneficiary of McIntosh’s long ball, and although he allowed three baserunners, kept the Bears in check.
Taylor Lobus gave up one run in is four inning stint as a starter, and the Bear middle relief trio of Garrett Mathes, Luke Sutko and Hunter Phillips kept the scoreboard clean in the next six innings before McIntosh’s solo shot off Green, who was tagged with the loss.
WVU returns home for another mid-week game on Wednesday March 11. The Mountaineers host Liberty at Monongalia County Ballpark in a scheduled 3:00 p.m. contest. The Flames are 10-6 overall, and took two of three from Kent State this past weekend. The Mountaineers no-hit the Golden Flashes 8-0 on a combined no hitter last Wednesday.
SEAMS AND BARRELS
All three runs in the game were scored with two out.
* * * * * *
WVU’s RPI skyrocketed with the two wins over Mercer, and stood at No. 25 after Sunday’s win. Six of the nine teams in the Big 12 stand 33rd or higher in the RPI.
* * * * * *
While pitching competition definitely remains in play, the Mountaineer staff is taking shape. The four starters are Jackson Wolf, Ryan Bergert, Jake Carr and Tyler Strechay. Middle relief has also been quite strong, with Zach Ottinger, Skylar Gonzalez, Madison Jeffrey and Jacob Watters all performing well, and at the back end Erbe and Zarbnisky are available as closers.