WVU Rides Long Ball To Win Over Maryland
By: Kevin Kinder
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – If chicks dig the long ball, as the old major league baseball marketing tag went, then there were lots of happy people at David E. Couch Ballpark on Friday afternoon. West Virginia went deep six times in a 9-1 win over the Maryland Terrapins, putting West Virginia into the winners bracket on Saturday. The victory was WVU’s first in NCAA play since an 9-4 win over Georgia Southern on May 24, 1996. Kyle Davis and Jimmy Galusky each took a pair of Terp pitches over the wall to pace the blast fest. In the process, they set individual records for most homers by a Mountaineer in a post season game, and were also the drivers of the team-best six in a single tournament contest.
After a patient yet unproductive first inning, West Virginia got aggressive in the second. Cole Austin laced a double down the left field line, and one batter later Davis blasted a shot over the left field wall. Both hits came on the first pitch from Maryland starter Brian Shaffer.
West Virginia then took advantage of the cozy dimensions of the ballpark, when Galusky followed with what appeared to be a warning track fly ball to left. Maryland rightfielder Marty Costes appeared to have a bead on the ball, but kept drifting back before running out of room. A beaming Galusky rounded the bases to give the Mountaineers a 3-0 lead.
Maryland got a run back in the top of the third courtesy of a walk, a groundout and a two-out bloop single to right. The Terps then loaded the bases when Manoah hit the next two batters, but the freshman battled back to get a grounder to end the inning.
One inning later, catcher Ivan Rodriguez painted a pitch a few feet inside the left field fair pole to get the run back and extend the lead to 4-1. In the fifth, Davis again swung on the first pitch, producing another no-doubt blast to left center.
The park dimensions of the park were a point of discussion throughout the post game. Maryland head coach John Szefc noted, though, that it was Terp missed opportunities early, combined with the Mountaineer bombs, that told the difference in the game.
The Mountaineers went yard for the fourth consecutive inning on their next at-bat, when Cole Austin cleared the fence in right for two more runs.
“That guy just kills us,” Szefc noted. “He’s one of the best position players we have seen.”
Cole’s homer put WVU out in front by the comfortable score of 7-1. Another score was tacked on with an Austin sacrifice fly in the seventh, and Galusky crushed a pitch deep to left center in the top of the ninth to close out the scoring.
WVU starting pitcher Alek Manoah struggled with control throughout, but a surprising relief stint from starter BJ Myers gave WVU all the pitching it needed. Manoah threw 52 pitches in 3.1 innings, but 27 were balls. He hit four batters and walked another, and departed after putting two aboard with one out in the top of the fourth. Only a pair of double plays in the first two innings and the bases loaded escape in the third kept the damage from being worse, but his battling nature kept West Virginia energized.
Myers showed no problems in his first relief appearance of the season after 15 starts. He had Terrapin batters swinging under the ball, producing several pop-ups and routine fly balls. Even with the smallish dimensions of the field (310 and 300 down the lines, respectively), he was not hurt by balls in the air. He recorded ten outs on fly balls, and was only threatened in the eighth, when a pair of Terps reached with no outs. He responded with a 4-6-3 double play and another pop-up to end any thoughts of a miracle rally. About the only negative overall to the Mountaineer performance on the mound was five hit batters.
“BJ had been in a little bit of a rut, so pitching in relief was probably a good thing for him,” head coach Randy Mazey said. “And starting Manoah, that guy hates to lose more than anyone else in the dugout. It seems like we win when he just pitches three or four innings, but he is super competitive and the team feeds off that.”
Maryland star Brian Shaffer was rocked for the second consecutive outing. He gave up the five homers and seven earned runs in five innings of work. He did throw strikes on 59 of his 84 pitches, but perhaps some of those were a bit too good, as WVU swung aggressively and didn’t allow him to get ahead in the count.
“I don’t think it was anything mechanical with him,” Szefc said. “His location the last two games was not what it had been all season.”
WVU nearly doubled Shaffer’s home run allowed total. He had given up just six all year before the onslaught.
Davis was 3-4 with the two home runs, three RBI and nine total bases, while Austin was 2-2 with the double and homer and three RBI. Galusky had two RBI and a pair of runs on his roundtrippers.
West Virginia will be back in action tomorrow at 7:00 p.m.. The Mountaineers will face the winner of the Wake Forest – UMBC match-up.