WVU Takes Opening Series With 2-1 Sunday Win Over Jacksonville
West Virginia’s pitching staff is in major rebuild mode after losing its weekend starters and top closer from last year, but so far this season that construction project is yielding pretty good results.
The Mountaineers (2-1) captured the opening series of the 2020 season on Sunday, riding another strong pitching performance to down Jacksonville 2-1 and take the three-game set by the same margin.
Mountaineer freshman Jake Carr, making his first appearance in a WVU uniform, faced 20 batters over five innings, allowing just three hits and one earned run. He showed excellent control, the key to his effectiveness, as he walked just one batter while striking out one while throwing 46 strikes in 61 pitches. He kept the ball down in the outward-blowing wind, recording eight groundouts.
After a 1-2-3 first inning, Jacksonville (1-2) got to Carr in the bottom of the second as catcher Jacob Southern singled, stole second and scored on Langston Provitt’s single. Carr showed a bit of shakiness with a balk and a wild pickoff attempt that sailed into center field, but he composed himself to get a fly ball out to end the frame.
In the third, JU put two aboard with a pair of two-out hits, but again Carr was equal to the task, inducing a grounder to keep the margin at 1-0.
West Virginia scratched out a run in the top of the fourth to even the score, but the Mountaineers missed a good chance to put up a crooked number. Hits from Tyler Doanes and Matt McCormick put runners on the corners with no outs, but the Dolphins turned a double play as Doanes scored to empty the bases. That theme continued in the top of the sixth, when WVU again put its first two hitters aboard, but again was able to produce only one run. Doanes snaked a single through the right side to score Tevin Tucker, who had singled and stolen second ahead of Braden Zarbnisky’s hit, but Doanes and Zarb withered on the vine as WVU could not put the ball out of the infield with its next three batters.
That turned out to be all the scoring West Virginia needed, but with memories of Jacksonville’s 4-3 win on Saturday night still fresh, in which the Dolphins scored three runs in the eighth, the potential for drama was clear. However, relievers Dillon Meadows and Zack Ottinger combined to shut down JU in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings on no hits. Meadows yielded one walk and hit a batter in his two inning of work, but wasn’t seriously threatened, and Ottinger worked a perfect eighth.
That led to Zarbnisky, who trotted in from left field in search of his second save of the weekend. Zarb equalled his performance on Friday night by closing out the game with a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth.
Zarbnisky and Doanes had two hits each for WVU, with Doanes adding an RBI. The Mountaineers managed seven hits and a walk in the game, but suffered nine strikeouts and left just three runners on base, partly due to a pair of Dolphin double plays and a pickoff. West Virginia had five 1-2-3 innings at the plate.
Jacksonville starter Austin Temple also pitched quite well, striking out seven Mountaineers in six innings while yeilding two runs, which tagged him with something of a hard luck loss. Four other Dolphin relievers combined to hold WVU to one hit through the final two innings.
Dolphin catcher Southern worked both of his team’s walks in the game, and also stole a base.
SEAMS AND BARRELS
West Virginia showed that its outfield has the potential to be even better defensively than last year’s group. Centerfielder Victor Scott had a pair of long runs to snare potential hits, and Austin Davis had a diving catch in right to cut off another. With Zarbnisky in left, the Mountaineers have the ability to cover a lot of ground.
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Nine of the ten hits in the game were singles, with Zarbnisky’s double the only extra base hit on the day.
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The game was completed in a tidy two hours and 14 minutes.
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WVU returns to campus to play its earliest-ever home opener on Tuesday , Feb. 18. The Mountaineers will face Canisius, which is 1-3 after a four-game series against UMass-Lowell in North Carolina. First pitch is set for 2:00 p.m. at Monongalia County Ballpark. The Golden Griffins scored 34 runs in that series.