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Successful Homestand Boosts WVU's Confidence

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Randy Mazey waves KC Huth home in a WVU loss to TCU in the Big 12 championship game. (PHOTO: Geoff Coyle) Randy Mazey waves KC Huth home in a WVU loss to TCU in the Big 12 championship game. (PHOTO: Geoff Coyle)

It was a great week at the ballpark for the West Virginia University baseball team. After clinching the series at No. 23 Oklahoma State last weekend, the Mountaineers dominated a five-game homestand with only one loss.

The long week at the Monongalia County Ballpark started on Tuesday with a 14-7 victory over in-state foe Marshall. It was WVU’s third consecutive victory and one that was earned via an offensive explosion.

“Anytime fatigue sets in, you respond by being as aggressive as you can,” WVU baseball coach Randy Mazey said in an interview for the WVU Coaches Show. “So, we tried to do that going into the Marshall game and make some things happen and be aggressive offensively, and it worked.”

It surely did work, the Mountaineers plated 14 runs off 16 hits. Senior first baseman Jackson Cramer led the charge with a team-high four RBIs. He knocked his fifth home run of the season and started the day off with a two-run blast to get WVU its first lead.

Junior left fielder Kyle Davis had three hits, including a double, and an RBI. Freshman catcher Chase Illig was also a contributor with two hits.

Less than 24 hours after the win over the Thundering Herd, the Mountaineers returned to the diamond against Morehead State. West Virginia held the Eagles, one of the nation’s best offensively, to just one run on four hits in the 5-1 victory.

It was a strong outing on the mound as freshman Alek Manoah allowed one hit and no runs in 3.2 innings in his first career start. Fellow freshman Cody Wood earned the win in his first career appearance. He allowed one run on one hit.

“I think our young guys took it upon themselves to go out there and be challenged by a great offensive team and they pitched really well.” Coach Mazey said.

In the second inning, Manoh had a play that snagged him a spot on Sports Center Top 10. He snatched a line drive with his bare hand and tossed it first for the double play. The week prior, his teammate Brandon White also earned the honor when he caught a line drive at OSU.

“That’s been a pretty common theme around here,” Mazey said with a smile “I’ve told people our centerfielder, Brandon White, is worth the price of admission because that isn’t an accident that he makes it on Top 10.”

“Manoh is about 7-foot tall, he is huge and his hands are bigger than your normal human being, so him catching it with his bare hand is like anyone catching it with their glove. It’s a great statement for the program.”

The Mountaineers continued the win streak on Friday night with a 10-1 victory over the Kansas Jayhawks in the Big 12 home opener.

It was another powerful night offensively for the home team as sophomore Ivan Gonzalez and junior Kyle Gray both smashed two-out homers. The Jayhawks tallied their only run on a sacrifice fly in the ninth.

WVU clinched the series with the following evening via an 8-0 victory, marking its sixth-straight win. It was also the fourth series win in a row and third in conference play.

On Friday, junior BJ Myers pitched his first career complete game and the night after sophomore Michael Grove took a perfect game into the eighth inning. He struck out a season best 12 batters and gave up just one hit.

KU snapped WVU’s win streak with a 7-2 victory in the series finale on Sunday. The Jayhawks held the Mountaineers to just five hits. Darius Hill hit a two-run homer to get WVU on the board.

“We are still young. This is the third time we have won the first two games of the weekend and haven’t been able to close it out, so we will learn how to do that as we go along and hopefully we are in that position again. But don’t take anything away from the Jayhawks. That is their third Sunday win in a row, that’s no accident,” Coach Mazey said after the loss.

“They threw three really good arms at us and that is why they win games, they have pitching depth. We are trying to find ours. I feel really good about the week we had, went 4-1, we are in good shape in the league. The season is more than half over, so if we can stay motivated and grind, we still feel really good about where we are at.”

West Virginia (19-11, 6-3 Big 12) has won 11 of its last 15 games and improved to 6-2 at home. With that series finale loss to Kansas now in the review mirror, the Mountaineers are focused on another tough week ahead.

It starts on Tuesday with a visit to No. 24 Maryland. The Terrapins are 20-10 and coming off series loss to Nebraska.

“If we keep playing the way we have been I think we will be alright,” Cole Austin said. “It helps us going into ranked games because we know we are going to bring our best. We know what to expect, we know they are good, and if we come out swinging like we have been doing I think we will see good results.”

And the results against top 25 teams have been more than “good” for the Mountaineers. In February, they knocked off defending National Champion and No. 18 Coastal Carolina 22-9 and 4-1. They also earned series wins on the road over No. 10 Baylor and No. 23 OSU.

With those wins under their belt, the Mountaineers have the confidence they need to face off against another ranked opponent.

“They are in the top 25 and we are on the road again, that’s not unfamiliar to us. We played six games on the road against top 25 teams and we are ready. This is the type of game we get excited about and it will be a huge win for us if we are able to get that one,” Mazey added.

No. 24 Maryland is the main focus, but that isn’t the only challenge this week brings. WVU hosts TCU, the reigning Big 12 Champ, for a series this weekend.

“It would be huge for us to get out of there (Maryland) with a win,” sophomore right fielder Daruis Hill said, “TCU is TCU. What it has done in the past speaks for itself so we know that is a big series. If we take it one game at a time I think we will be okay.”

WVU takes on Maryland Tuesday at 4 p.m. and returns to the Monongalia County Ballpark on Friday for game one of the series against the Horned Frogs, first pitch at 6:30 p.m.

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