MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia University baseball team completed a two-game sweep of Gardner-Webb on Sunday, with a 4-3 victory on Senior Day.
Senior first baseman Jackson Cramer led the team with two hits and senior right-handed reliever Jackson Sigman threw 1.1 scoreless innings to propel the Mountaineers (30-20) to their third consecutive win. Cramer, Sigman and fellow senior and student manager JT Heenan were honored before the game for their careers at WVU.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs (22-27) out-hit WVU 10-7, but West Virginia pitchers stranded 10 GWU runners on base to help hold the visitors to just three runs. Freshman right-handed starter Alek Manoah earned his first career win, striking out a career-best seven batters in 5.2 innings and allowing one run on six hits.
“You can have all of the pretty losses you want in May, I’ll take an ugly win any day of the week, because we need them,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “Games like this, where you don’t execute all that great, you need to win those games. So thank goodness for Zarb (Braden Zarbnisky). That guy is hitting .342. Now he has five wins and five saves. If there’s a more valuable player on any team in the Big 12 than what that guy has been to us, I’d like to know who he is.”
Zarbnisky, who also was the designated hitter today, picked up his team-leading fifth save of the season with a scoreless ninth inning.
Along with Cramer’s two hits, sophomore right fielder Darius Hill had a hit and two RBIs to lead the Mountaineers.
West Virginia jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Back-to-back singles opened the frame before Hill singled with one out and the bases loaded to bring home sophomore second baseman Kyle Gray and sophomore third baseman Ivan Gonzalez.
Manoah got three strikeouts in the second inning, but an RBI double with two outs got Gardner-Webb on the board in the third. A groundout ended the inning to strand a runner.
With a 2-1 lead, the Mountaineers would go hitless until the sixth inning, before adding a run in the bottom of the sixth to make it 3-1 on a sacrifice fly by junior left fielder Kyle Davis. It followed a Gardner-Webb scoring opportunity in the top of the inning, when Sigman entered the game with two on and two outs. However, Sigman got a groundout to end it.
Sigman stranded another two runners in scoring position in the seventh, and West Virginia added another run, the eventual game-winner, to extend the advantage to 4-1 in the bottom of the inning. Freshman catcher Chase Illig led things off with a single, advanced to third on an error and scored on Gray’s groundout.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs cut into the deficit with two runs in the eighth off of freshman reliever Kade Strowd. The first two runners reached in the inning, and a wild pitch scored the one run. A sacrifice fly followed before Strowd got the inning’s final two outs to keep the Mountaineers ahead, 4-3.
Zarbnisky pitched a scoreless ninth inning, allowing a leadoff double before getting three consecutive strikeouts to earn the save.
The Mountaineers close their home slate on Tuesday, May 16, against rival Pitt at Monongalia County Ballpark. First pitch of the Backyard Brawl is set for 6:30 p.m. ET. The game is a gold rush, and all fans are encouraged to wear gold. Additionally, fans can play baseball bingo and win WVU prizes. WVU beat the Panthers in Pittsburgh earlier this year, 8-4.
Cover Photo Credit: Dale Sparks- All Pro Photography- wvusports.com
Press Release Courtesy: WVU Sports Communications- Charlie Healy