WVU’s Top Of The Order Produces Again; Teams With Shutout Pitching in 6-0 Win Over Mercer
It’s hard to imagine that any group is setting the table better than the top three batters in West Virginia’s lineup these days.
The leadoff trio of Braden Zarbnisky, Austin Davis and Tyler Doanes are placesetters of the first order, producing in all manner of ways as the Mountaineer offense has gotten untracked. They were at it again on Friday night in Macon, Georgia, where WVU (9-4) produced its second consecutive shutout with a 6-0 win over Mercer, which came into the game with a gaudy No. 10 ranking in the RPI. The Bears, though, haven’t faced a top of the order like West Virginia’s, which has made early run production a habit over the past couple of weeks.
Zarbnisky was 2-3 with a walk and three runs scored, and also got aboard after being hit by a pitch. Davis was only 1-5, but had an RBI double and also worked a walk. Doanes was 1-4 with a double and an RBI groundout, and also got on board via a walk. Zarbnisky is hitting .491 on the year, while Davis (.327) and Doanes (.315) are also hitting the ball hard, and when not reaching base themselves are moving those along in front of them when not driving them home outright The trio has combined for 29 steals, and each is hitting better with runners in scoring position than they do without. Davis (nine RBI) and Doanes (10) are second and third on the team in that category. All of that combines to make them very dangerous, as the Bears discovered on Friday night.
Zarbnisky once again led off the game by getting aboard, and coming around to score, continuing to support his reputation as perhaps the best leadoff man in the nation. “Zarb” singled to left, stole second and third, then came home on Doanes’ groundout. That start perhaps contributed to some jitters on the Mercer defense, as Vince Ippoliti then reached second on an error by second baseman Kyle Dokus, and scored when first baseman Angelo DiSpigna committed an error on Kevin Brophy’s grounder to give WVU a 2-0 lead in its first at-bat.
Four innings later, Zarbnisky and Davis were at it again, with the former reaching after being hit by a pitch from Mercer starter Tanner Hall, who eventually took his first loss of the year, falling to 3-1. Davis followed with an RBI double to make it 3-0.
After two more runs came across in the eight courtesy of a Ryan Archibald homer and a Victor Scott RBI single, Zarbnisky capped another great evening with a double, moved to third on a wild pitch and scooted home with his own steal while Doanes occupied the Mercer defense with a swipe of second.
In the meantime, it was yet another outstanding performance on the mound for the WVU pitching staff. Jackson Wolf (3-1) pitched 6.1 innings of scoreless baseball, allowing four hits and a walk against seven strikeouts against a Mercer squad that had five batters hitting .300 or better coming in. The Bears (11-2) managed a pair of scoring chances in the third and fourth innings, putting two aboard in each frame, but Wolf shut down the threats while lowering his ERA to 0.84 and his WHIP to 0.75.
More encouragement came from reliever Zach Ottinger, who allowed just one hit against six Bear batters, recording five outs (two by strikeout). The evening was capped with the first career appearance of junior college transfer Haden Erbe, who pitched a scoreless ninth on just eight pitches, seven of which were strikes. Ottinger has allowed only one earned run this season and lowered his own sparking ERA to 0.96.
The Bears used five pitchers in the game, with relievers Joe Molettiere , Fred Wilson and Josh Farmer each allowing an earned run on top of Hall’s three scores yielded.
Mountaineer freshman Victor Scott was 2-4 with an RBI on the evening, while Archibald came off the bench to smash a pinch-hit leadoff home run in the eighth inning.
The series continues on Saturday with a single game at 1:00 p.m. A pair of sophomore righties with excellent numbers will square off, as Ryan Bergert (2-0, 2.75 ERA) will match up against Mercer’s Jackson Kelley (2-0, 1.06 ERA).
SEAMS AND BARRELS
Zarbnisky stole four bases on the evening, moving his team-best total to 16 through 11 games. He seems a certain bet to shatter WVU’s single season record of 29, set by Mickey Mamarella in 1986, and is also taking aim at Randy Mazey’s personal record of 34, set during his 1988 senior season at Clemson.
WVU now has 41 steals on the season, and has only been caught six times. The Mountaineers were 7-8 on steals Friday night.
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West Virginia pitchers allowed just one extra base hit to 34 Bear batters, while producing five of their own.
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The Mountaineers again cracked the double-digit hit mark with 1o, and had just one inning in which they went down in order.