MACON, Ga. – Junior catcher/designated hitter Paul McIntosh hit a go-ahead home run in the top of the 11th inning to help the West Virginia University baseball team to a 2-1 win over Mercer on Sunday afternoon at OrthoGeorgia Park in Macon, Georgia.
With two outs and the bases empty, the Miami Gardens, Florida, native crushed a ball to center, marking his third homer of the campaign. McIntosh, who didn’t enter the game until the ninth inning, was one of seven players used off the bench to either pinch hit, pinch run or sub in as a position player.
The victory gave WVU the series win over the Bears, taking two of three games on the weekend. It also improved the Mountaineers’ record to 10-5 on the year.
“This was a big win, big weekend,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “Mercer is a really good team, and I think they’re going to win their league. That’ll look good for us to win a series on the road against a good team. We used the whole bench and then some – (junior left-handed pitcher) Jackson Wolf gets an at-bat and (freshman right-handed pitcher) Tyler Strechay plays left field. That’s the kind of team we have. All the position players are capable of helping us, and in bits and pieces, we had to use them all.”
After the Mountaineers left runners on first and second to begin Sunday’s rubber match, freshman left-handed pitcher Jake Carr sent Mercer (12-3) down in order, recording a pair of first-inning strikeouts. However, the Bears went on to take a 1-0 lead in the second, when the hosts tallied a two-out, RBI infield single.
After Carr struck out two more in the bottom of the third, WVU evened the ballgame in the fourth. Freshman catcher/infielder Matt McCormick smacked an RBI double to right center, scoring redshirt sophomore catcher/designated hitter Vince Ippoliti, who made his first career start in left field on Sunday.
West Virginia stranded a runner at third in the top of the fifth, before Carr’s outing ended in the bottom half of the inning. The St. Albans, West Virginia, native finished with 4.2 innings of work, allowing three hits and an unearned run, while striking out a career-best five hitters.
From there, WVU’s bullpen went on to allow just one hit in the final 6.1 innings of the day. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Zach Ottinger began the bullpen’s day with 1.1 innings of no-hit ball, before he turned it over to sophomore right-hander Madison Jeffrey (no hits and two strikeouts in two innings), redshirt junior righty Haden Erbe (three strikeouts in one inning) and redshirt senior outfielder/right-handed pitcher Braden Zarbnisky (one hit and two strikeouts in two innings).
After Erbe’s dominant inning in the ninth, Zarbnisky led off the top of the 10th with a single to center. The Marietta, Georgia, native stole second but advanced no further, before he took the mound for a scoreless bottom half.
Then, McIntosh had his big moment, giving the Mountaineers the 2-1 lead with his long ball. Zarbnisky finished the job with back-to-back strikeouts to end the game.
“I said, ‘You need to be prepared to come in and win this game at the end,’” Mazey said of McIntosh. “That’s what he did. He took better swings today than he has all weekend.”
Zarbnisky earned the win, improving his season record to 1-0. WVU finished with two runs on five hits, while Mercer tallied one run on four hits and an error.
Sunday marked West Virginia’s first extra-innings game of the season. With the win, the Mountaineers have won five of their last six games.
Next up, WVU returns to Monongalia County Ballpark to host Liberty on Wednesday, March 11. First pitch is set for 3 p.m. ET.