WVU Yields Late Lead In Loss To Jacksonville
In its first two games of the 2020 season, West Virginia baseball team got an excellent starting pitching performance, jumped out to a lead, then saw its bullpen struggle. Friday night, the Mountaineers were able to hold on for a 3-1 win, but on Saturday the host Jacksonville Dolphins scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth to turn a 3-1 WVU lead into a 4-3 victory for the home team.
The big blow came from the bat of Christian Coiple, who muscled a ball into the teeth of an inward-blowing wind from right field for a two-run homer to complete the comeback. That hit tagged the loss on reliever Madison Jeffrey, who had himself come on to replace Tyler Strechay, who had pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning but then gave up a walk and an RBI double in the eighth. Coiple, the first batter Jeffrey faced, got to him before he could settle in and produced the winning runs.
WVU had plenty of chances to push the game out of reach prior to that point, but the Mountaineers left nine runners on base in the game.
“I think we had guys in scoring position in seven of the nine innings, and we left a ton of guys stranded out there,” WVU head coach Randy Mazey noted. “We’re doing a good job of getting on base, we’re just not doing a very good job of getting them in.”
West Virginia loaded the bases in the top of the first and couldn’t score, but the Mountaineers got right back to work in the top of the second. Freshman Victor Scott laced a hit into the gap in left, and a bare hesitation from left fielder Cory Heffron allowed him to motor into third with a triple. Tevin Tucker, hitting ninth in the order, then ripped a 2-2 pitch through a drawn-in Dolphin infield to plate Scott for the early 1-o lead.
Jacksonville put a runner aboard in each of the first three innings, and broke through in the fourth to tie the score off WVU starter Ryan Bergert, who had the Mountaineers’ second quality start in as many days. The Dolphins scratched out a run on a fielder’s choice, but that was the only blemish on Bergert’s performance, as he yielded just four hits and two walks in six innings while striking out four.
Two frames later, WVU broke back. With two out, Scott ripped his second triple of the game, this one to right center. Austin Davis followed with a solid single up the middle to bring Scott home and put the Mountaineers back in front at 2-1. WVU then got what appeared to be an insurance run in the top of the eighth when Austin Davis drove Kevin Brophy home with an RBI single off the pitcher’s glove, but Jacksonville got a strikeout to end the inning and stay within striking distance.
Braden Zarbnisky had his second multi-hit game of the year in as many contest with two singles. Scott had the two triples and scored twice, while Davis was 3-4 with two RBI. The second through sixth spots in the WVU batting order went 1-17 on the day.
West Virginia (1-1) and Jacksonville (1-1) conclude the three-game series with the rubber match set for Sunday with a noon start. Freshman lefty Jake Carr is scheduled to make his first collegiate appearance for the Mountaineers. Dolphin junior right-hander Austin Temple (4-3, 5.37 ERA in 2019) is set to take the hill for the home team.