WVU Warms Late, Edges Canisius In Cold Opener
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The weather was cold, and West Virginia’s bats were colder — at least until crunch time.
With just three hits through seven innings, WVU had still managed to hang on to a 3-3 tie with visiting Canisius, which had 10 through the same period. However, the Mountaineers (2-2) got one hit in the eighth to take the the lead, then two more in the ninth, including the game winner from pinch hitter Tristen Hudson, to record a 5-4 victory.
The final innings were a back and forth affair, with the Mountaineers striking first in the bottom of the eighth. Austin Davis was the catalyst, singling and then stealing second and third for the second time in the same inning. Brandon White laid down a perfect bunt to the first base side to bring Davis home, but the Griffins (1-3) weren’t done.
Mountaineer closer Sam Kessler, part of a bullpen contingent that spent some of the game in the clubhouse to keep warm, gave up a leadoff triple to Stephen Bennett, then uncorked a wild pitch that allowed him to dash home with the equalizer. He then walked William Krull, who advanced to second on a wild pitch, but got a pair of foul outs, including the final one on Davis’ long run and grab in foul territory in left field.
West Virginia continued to record better at bats in the ninth. Marques Inman walked and Paul McIntosh singled him to second, which led to pinch runner TJ Lake taking Inman’s place on the bag. With two out, Tristen Hudson singled through the right side, and Lake sped home ahead of the throw, executing a wide slide in foul territory while reaching out to slap the plate on his way by. That cued an explosion from the Mountaineer dugout, followed by the traditional singing of Country Roads.
Both teams saw scoring chances get by them in the early going. WVU put a pair of runners aboard in the first and loaded the bases in the second, but could not push any runs across, and Canisius had a pair of singles in the second, but likewise could not advance their runners further.
West Virginia got on the board first when Marques Inman tied into a Alec Ritzenthaler offering and blasted it over the right field wall for a solo home run. One inning later, the Mountaineers added another run on an RBI groundout by Darius Hill, who drove home White.
The Golden Griffins responded with a run of their own in the top of the fifth, but the damage could have been much worse. Mark McKenna’s RBI double scored Mike Steffan, but Connor Morro was cut down at the plate on a lovely relay from rightfielder Darius Hill to Tyler Doanes to Gonzalez, who scrambled back to the plate to apply the tag just in time.
The fifth also saw another single Mountaineer tally, as Ivan Gonzalez followed Inman’s lead with a shot into the Canisius bullpen for a 3-1 lead.
As is often the case in early season mid-week games, both teams employed a bevy of pitchers. WVU lefty starter Nick Snyder atoned for a rough outing over the weekend with 4.1 innings of work in which he gave up four hits and one earned run, but struck out six and walked just one. Dillon Meadows managed one inning of work, giving up an earned run on two hits and a walk, while Phillip Dull walked two and struck out one in the three batters he faced.
Gabe Kurtzhals was up next for the Mountaineers, and got them out of Dull’s jam with a strikeout to end the fifth, but one inning later he was hurt by an error and a walk, which was followed by an RBI single. Kurtzhals then couldn’t field a comebacker to the mound, which skipped off his glove and allowed the Golden Griffins to extend the inning. Sure enough, Stephen Bennett singled to plate an earned run to tie the score at three all.
Beau Lowery pitched the seventh and eighth, giving up a hit and a walk against three strikeouts, while Kessler benefited from the Mountaineer rally to get the win after missing the save opportunity.
Canisius went even deeper in its rotation, putting six hurlers on the mound for one inning of work through the first two-thirds of the game. David Yankowski then worked the seventh and eighth, while Jarod Burmaster was tagged with the loss in the ninth.
West Virginia’s most notable offense came from Davis, who got aboard via a hit and a walk, and stole second and third following each. No Mountaineer had more than one hit, but Tevin Tucker wangled three walks while Tyler Doanes worked two. Leading hitter Darius Hill had a rare 0-5 day.
For Canisius, Bennet was 2-5, while Krull was 2-3. The Golden Griffens counted four extra-base hits among their 11 safeties, but WVU trumped those three doubles and a triple with its pair of solo home runs.
WVU returns to the road this weekend to face Georgia Southern in a three game set, with the first scheduled for Friday at 6 p.m.
The game was the earliest home contest in Mountaineer baseball history. The earliest previous opener in WVU history came on March 5, 2008. Gametime temperature Tuesday was 32 degrees.
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Nine players have made their Division I debuts for West Virginia this year, including eight true freshmen.
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With the addition of today’s game, WVU is still two games under the maximum allowed number of 56 regular season contests. That portends more additions as the season progresses.
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West Virginia stole six bases on the afternoon, including four by Austin Davis. Davis twice reached first and stole second and third. Babe Barna holds the WVU record with five in a game, which he swiped against St Vincent all the way back in 1937.