A four-run sixth inning and a strong performance by the pitching staff led the West Virginia University baseball team to an 8-2 victory at Georgia State on Saturday afternoon.
In the first of two games on Saturday against two different teams to conclude the Atlanta Challenge, the Mountaineers (1-1) scored two runs in the first inning but were held hitless until a four-run sixth opened the game up. The WVU pitching staff limited the Panthers (0-2) to two runs on six hits.
In front of a pro-Mountaineer crowd on a sunny day at the GSU Baseball Complex, West Virginia scored its eight runs on seven hits. WVU did not commit an error and left seven runners on base, while GSU had one error and stranded five. The Mountaineer offense benefited from seven Panther walks, while WVU pitchers had just two.
“Our pitchers, for the most part, attacked the hitters and didn’t give many free bases,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “The relief pitchers came in and did a really good job. Once our offense settles in and those guys get comfortable at different fields and different environments, we have a good offensive team. I think we showed a little bit of that today. We didn’t have any hits through the first five innings, but managed to score some runs. When we settle down and slow our heartbeat down a little bit, we have some really good hitters in the lineup.”
Three Mountaineers recorded their first career hits in the win, including sophomore catcher Paul McIntosh and freshman shortstop Tevin Tucker, who each added a team-high-tying two RBIs with a run scored. Tucker’s RBIs, on a single in the sixth inning, were the first of his career. Senior right fielder Darius Hill led the team with two hits and scored two runs.
Sophomore left-hander Jackson Wolf earned the win with another strong start by a Mountaineer starting pitcher to begin the year. In 5.0 innings, he allowed one run on four hits with four strikeouts and two walks. Freshman righty Ryan Bergert followed with three perfect innings and retired all nine batters he faced as the WVU offense extended its lead.
In the win, Bergert and fellow freshmen Austin Davis, Phillip Dull and Brock Helverson made their Mountaineer debuts. Bergert relieved Wolf on the mound and threw three perfect innings. Davis came on in the sixth inning as a pinch runner, played left field and had his first career hit with a single in the eighth. Dull pinch hit in the eighth and played center and Helverson pitched a scoreless ninth inning.
The Mountaineer struck first in the top of the first with a pair of runs on no hits with three walks and a hit batter. Sophomore second baseman Tyler Doanes was hit by a pitch to lead off the game, and back-to-back walks followed to load the bases. McIntosh followed with WVU’s third consecutive walk to bring home the first run, and a one-out sacrifice fly by sophomore designated hitter Tristen Hudson brought home another run and gave West Virginia a 2-0 lead.
Wolf worked around a one-out double in the bottom of the first inning and a leadoff double in the third and retired the side in the second and fourth. The Panthers got on the board in the fifth inning on a leadoff home run by Brandon Bell, but Wolf limited the damage to the lone run.
West Virginia wasted no time answering back though, with a four-run sixth inning that began with WVU’s first hit of the game, a leadoff single by McIntosh. A walk, sacrifice bunt and intentional walk loaded the bases with one out, and a wild pitch brought home the inning’s first run. That set up Tucker, who delivered his first hit and RBI as a Mountaineer with a two-run single up the middle. Junior center fielder Brandon White capped the inning with a double down the left-field line to score Tucker and give the Mountaineers a 6-1 advantage.
Bergert relieved Wolf in the sixth and threw three consecutive 1-2-3 innings, with a pair of strikeouts in the seventh.
WVU extended its lead to 8-1 in the ninth with a pair of runs. The first came on an RBI groundout by McIntosh, and the second a sacrifice fly by senior third baseman Ivan Gonzalez.
Helverson took over for Bergert in the ninth and gave up an RBI double. However, he got the final two outs to preserve an 8-2 victory.
Due to inclement weather expected in the Atlanta area on Sunday, the Mountaineers will play again tonight, at Georgia Tech at 6 p.m. ET, at Russ Chandler Stadium. The Mountaineers were originally scheduled to play at Tech on Sunday.