MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–The West Virginia University baseball team defeated in-state rival Marshall 9-8 in a battle of the bats on Wednesday night at Monongalia County Ballpark.
The Mountaineers (21-18) swept the first series against the Thundering Herd (21-17) for the first time since 1997.
“I told the guys before the game started, every single time we’ve ever played Marshall, it’s been like this, it’s been a dogfight,” said WVU coach Randy Mazey. “They get super fired up for the game and they just happen to have the best team they’ve had since I’ve been here, which is good. That challenges the Mountaineers to play well.”
WVU used a five-run seventh to take a 9-3 lead but the Herd responded with five runs in the eighth to give the Mountaineers a scare.
Junior righty Brandon Boone relieved sophomore BJ Myers in the eighth. Boone gave up a leadoff single and a walk before being replaced by freshman reliever Jacob Brewer. First baseman Tommy Lane’s RBI single made it a 9-4 game. After recording an out, Tyler Ratliff delivered Brewer’s breaking ball over the right-center wall for his first career grand slam, pulling Marshall within one.
Closer Blake Smith entered the game and got the final two outs of the inning before a pair of strikeouts in a 1-2-3 ninth to seal the victory.
“Blake made a really good pitch at a really good time,” Mazey said of the game ending strikeout of Lane. “That guy’s a good hitter. Blake had thrown some sliders up and you worry about that, but he made a really good pitch at a good time.”
WVU jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning. Freshman Ivan Vera scored sophomore Kyle Davis on a sacrifice fly to left field. Junior first baseman Jackson Cramer’s base hit scored freshman Darius Hill.
Freshman right-handed starter Braden Zarbnisky pitched three scoreless innings. He surrendered two hits and fanned three.
Myers replaced Zarbnisky in the fourth and pitched a 1-2-3 inning before the Mountaineers added to their lead.
Hill led off the inning with a single and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Cramer’s base hit to center scored Hill to give WVU a 3-0 lead.
The Herd scored three runs on five hits in the fifth inning. Sam Finfer hit a two-run blast to center field before three straight singles tied the game at 3-3 and put runners at second and third. But Myers’ defense bailed him out of a jam. A routine ground out to short was followed by a diving stop at third by Vera.
The Mountaineers regained the lead for good in the bottom of the sixth. With one out, Hill walked and went to third on Vera’s double down the left field line. A groundout by Cramer plated Hill to give WVU a 4-3 edge.
The Mountaineers padded their lead in the seventh, scoring five runs on five hits. With two outs, Davis hit his sixth home run of the season, a two-run bomb to left field.
Hill followed with a double and Vera tripled to bring him home. Cramer then singled to score Vera and give WVU a 9-3 lead.
Cramer led the Mountaineers with three hits and four RBI. Vera had two hits and two RBI.
“We played really well tonight,” Mazey said. “I just went down the lineup with our guys, off the box score, and every guy in the lineup played well tonight, every single guy. Offensively, defensively, base running, energy. That’s what you have to do to win games. If we can do that every day, we have a chance to finish pretty strong.”
WVU improved to 43-24 all-time against Marshall
The Mountaineers take on Baylor on Friday to begin a three game series at home. First pitch on Friday is slated for 6:30 p.m. (ET)