ATLANTA, Ga. (Feb. 21, 2021) – The No. 14/21/22-ranked West Virginia University baseball team closed its season-opening series at Georgia State with a 3-2 win on Sunday afternoon in Atlanta, Georgia.
WVU earned the series split in Sunday’s finale at the GSU Baseball Complex, tallying three runs on three hits with one error, while the Panthers finished with two runs on five hits and three errors. The Mountaineer bullpen played a big role in the triumph, as freshman left-hander Ben Hampton, junior right-hander Zach Ottinger and sophomore righty Jake Watters combined to pitch five scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and recording six strikeouts.
Hampton earned the victory on the mound in his WVU debut, while GSU’s Dylan Matela took the loss. Sophomore right-hander Tyler Strechay started for WVU on Sunday, going four innings and allowing two runs on four hits with a pair of strikeouts in a no decision.
“Over the course of a long season, you’re going to play a lot of different games,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “You’re going to play extra-inning games, you’re going to play on the good end of blowouts, you’re going to play on the backend of blowouts, and you’re going to have to play one-run games where you have to close it out on the road. It seems like we covered every scenario in one weekend, so that’s really good experience for us to be in all those games.”
The Mountaineers (2-2) got on the board first in the top of the second when sophomore catcher/infielder Matt McCormick got the inning started by smacking a leadoff double. After a Panther error advanced him to third, the Orland Park, Illinois, native scored on a wild pitch to make it 1-0.
In the third, Georgia State (2-2) answered, tying the game at 1 with an RBI groundout, before the hosts took the lead in the fourth on a two-out single to left to make it 2-1. Then, in the sixth, West Virginia responded, manufacturing a pair of runs to take the lead right back.
First, senior catcher/designated hitter Paul McIntosh scored the tying run following a GSU throwing error on a WVU steal attempt. Moments later, freshman infielder Mikey Kluska slapped a bunt down and beat the throw to first, scoring sophomore outfielder Victor Scott and giving WVU a 3-2 advantage. The Mountaineers wound up with the bases loaded in the frame but couldn’t do any further damage.
In the bottom of the sixth, McCormick made a great play by snagging a foul ball over the dugout railing for an out. It helped the cause for Hampton, who was terrific in his Mountaineer debut. The De Pere, Wisconsin, native allowed just one hit in three innings of work, while striking out a pair.
Georgia State threatened in the eighth, getting runners on first and second with just one out. That’s when fifth-year senior infielder Kevin Brophy flashed some leather to get the Mountaineers out of trouble. After scooping up a ground ball, Brophy tagged a baserunner out, before firing over to first for an inning-ending double play.
In the ninth, Watters earned his first career save after striking out three Panthers to close out the game.
“One thing a bullpen has to do is go out and throw strikes, and we did that for the most part,” Mazey said.
Following the win, WVU now leads the all-time series against Georgia State, 3-2. A total of 13 Mountaineers made their WVU debuts this weekend, including five who made their first career start. Additionally, West Virginia avoided the series loss with Sunday’s win, a mark that dates back to May 3-5, 2019, against TCU.
Next up, WVU returns to action when it travels to the CCU Baseball Tournament in Conway, South Carolina, from Feb. 26-28. The Mountaineers are set to take on Kennesaw State on Friday, event host Coastal Carolina on Saturday and Bryant on Sunday.
Press Release: WVU Athletics Communications
Photo Credit: WVU Sports