WVU Sweeps Twin Bill With 8-4 Win Over Kent State
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Winning doubleheaders is tough. That has long been the thought of West Virginia head coach Randy Mazey, who credits an instant momentum burst for the team that lost the first game in accounting for the fact that 80% of doubleheaders are split. (“They’ve just rallied to tie the score at 0-0,” he says of the start of the second game.) His team, however, bucked the odds and that momentum in recording an 8-4 victory over Kent State in the finale of Saturday’s two game set after taking the first one 6-2.
Once again, pitching was key for the Mountaineers (8-5), who sent three freshmen hurlers to the mound after starter Jackson Wolf struggled. Through the first two innings, the lefthander yielded four hits, two walks and two earned runs, and when he hit the leadoff batter in the third, Mazey had no qualms about going to his bullpen. The fact that the next three pitchers he eventually called upon were first-year players did not enter his thinking.
“I don’t pay attention to what year in school they are at this point,” he said. “The guy who is throwing it the best is going to get in there. They have done a really good job and grown up pretty quick, and we still have some guys down there that we could have brought in.”
Alex Manoah, who had another excellent starting outing in the game one win, was complimentary of the newcomers, citing their work ethic and willingness to learn.
“They work so hard, and when you work so hard you have a sense of confidence,” the junior righthander, who has plenty of that quality himself, said. “They are always asking questions, and always trying to get better.”
The freshman trio of Brock Helverson, Beau Lowery and Gabe Kurtzhals got the Mountaineers through the next 5.2 innings after taking over for Wolf. Lowery did allow a pair of runs, but like Helverson in front and Kurtzhals behind, battled to keep the Mountaineers close. Even so, Kent State (4-10) looked to be in command after scoring two runs in the top of the sixth, but then the Mountaineer floodgates opened at the plate.
Up until the bottom of that frame, WVU had just three hits. However, when Tyler Doanes led off with a single, it began applying pressure with its signature running game. Doanes stole second and went to third when the throw skipped into centerfield. Brandon White walked and stole second, then Darius Hill and Marques Inman followed with RBI singles to cut the lead to 4-2. That set the stage for Paul McIntosh, who had already had a big first game with two hits, a walk, an RBI and a run scored. He delivered again, slicing a ball down the right field line that hit the screen to the left of the pole. Video review, the second of the day, upheld the call, confirming the three-run homer that gave the Mountaineers a 5-4 lead.
West Virginia added three insurance runs in the eighth, as Inman tripled home Hill and Ivan Gonzalez sent pinchrunner Austin Davis scurrying home with another hit to right. Gonzalez later scored on a wild pitch to close the scoring.
WVU senior Zach Reid broke up the parade of freshmen pitchers when he came on in the ninth, and was unscathed despite yielding a hit and a walk. Overall, the hurlers gave up nine hits, seven walks, hit a pair of batters and uncorked two wild pitches, but they got the job done until West Virginia’s bats began to show life. The Mountaineers finished with 11 hits, with four coming in the sixth inning and another four in the eighth.
McIntosh stayed hot after an adjustment to his position in the batters box, collecting two hits and three RBI while scoring on his homer. Hill and Inman each went 2-4, combining for three runs and three RBI. Kutzhals collected the win, the first of his WVU career, while Kent State starter John Matthews took the loss, dropping him to 0-4. Reid was credited with a save, his first of the season.
WVU and Kent State wrap up the three-game series with a 1 p.m. Sunday game at Monongalia County Ballpark. Temperatures in the 60s are expected as WVU goes for its first sweep of the season. Kade Strowd (1-1, 1.56 ERA) is expected to take the mound for WVU against Kent State’s John Schreiver (1-1, 3.55 ERA).
The first-ever video reviews of a WVU game at Mon County Ballpark occurred during the second contest of the day. In addition to McIntosh’s homer, a WVU tag on a play at third was challenged by Mazey, with the original call of safe being upheld. However, West Virginia won a later challenge, when Brandon White’s diving grab of a liner in short center was deemed to be a catch upon review, overruling the original safe call by second base umpire Robert Reitz.
The 11 hits by WVU was a season high, surpassing the nine collected in the win over Towson.
Kent State left 14 runners on base. WVU pitchers did not record a 1-2-3 inning in the game, but got key outs in several critical situations to keep Kent State from adding to its 4-0 lead.
WVU had four hits in ten at bats with runners in scoring position.