On a frigid day in Morgantown, the Mountaineers (2-2) walked off the Golden Griffins (1-3) to earn a 5-4 win in the program’s earliest home opener in history.
In a game that saw a combined 20 strikeouts and 16 walks, it was clear to see the effect the temperature had on the ballplayers. However, the Mountaineers did just enough to earn the much-needed win and get their record back to .500.
In the bottom of the 3rd inning, 1B Marques Inman caught a ball out front and crushed a solo home run to left field to put WVU up 1-0. As soon as the ball left the bat, you knew there was no chance Monongalia County Ballpark had the means to keep that ball in, and, if that wasn’t evidence enough, the entire Mountaineer ballclub, led by pitcher Alek Manoah was hooting and hollering away because they knew their guy just smoked one.
The next inning, right fielder Darius Hill hit a soft ground ball to 2nd base that allowed shortstop Tevin Tucker to trot in and give the Mountaineers a 2-0 lead. That score was built by a Tucker leadoff walk, a Brandon White hit-by-pitch and a perfect sacrifice bunt by Tyler Doanes to put runners on 2nd and 3rd with just one out.
After the Golden Griffins got a run back in the top of the 5th on an RBI double by right fielder Mark McKenna, Mountaineer catcher Ivan Gonzalez hit a dinger to left field that extended the West Virginia lead to 3-1.
The Mountaineers got themselves into some trouble in the 6th inning, however, as Tucker wasn’t able to make a good throw to 1st. Canisius then put together a nice inning of baseball, and eventually tied the game up on RBI singles by 1B Mike Steffan and 3B Stephen Bennett off WVU freshman reliever Gabe Kurtzhals.
WVU reclaimed the lead 4-3 in the bottom of the 8th on a sacrifice bunt by White that scored left fielder Austin Davis, who stole 4 bases in today’s game.
Coach Mazey elected to bring in his closer, Sam Kessler to send the Golden Griffins back to Buffalo, but Kessler wasn’t able to get the job done. A leadoff triple by Bennett put the pressure on Kessler, who threw a wild pitch to the next batter and allowed Bennett to come into score and tie the game at 4. Kessler was able to induce several foul outs to get himself out of the inning.
In the bottom of the 9th, all 20 people in attendance were praying that the Mountaineers could win it so they could escape the cold, and win it they did. After a sharp lineout by Hill to begin the inning, Inman walked and DH Paul McIntosh hit a single through the right side. Mazey brought in TJ Lake to pinch-run for Inman and Tristen Hudson, who pinch-hit for Andrew Zitel in the 8th inning, hit a hard single through the 1st-2nd base gap to bring home Lake for the 5-4 win.
The Mountaineers will travel to Georgia Southern University this weekend for a 3-game series. Manoah, Wolf and Strowd will be on the bump for the Mountaineers, as they look to win their first series of the season.