PITTSBURGH–After dropping Tuesday night’s game to Penn State, the West Virginia University baseball team bounced back with a 4-2 win over the Nittany Lions on Wednesday at PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Mountaineers (28-20) got strong pitching performances from Sam Kessler, Cody Wood and Braden Zarbnisky.
Kessler got the nod and tossed four innings, surrendering one run and five hits. Wood (2-0) came on in the fifth and picked up the win. The freshman pitched 3.1 innings, allowing one run on five hits.
Zarbnisky picked up his team-leading fourth save. The sophomore pitched 1.2 innings of one-hit ball.
“We talked about it in the huddle, that the guys that pitched tonight, they’re sharing the mound with guys like Mariano Rivera, who’s pitched here, some of the greatest pitchers in the world,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “They got their foot on the same pitchers rubber that he did. Our guys that hit tonight, they’re sharing the batter’s box with some of the greatest players ever. It’s just kind of cool to think about that and look up and see all the seats. They all have aspirations of being Major League baseball players, everybody has since you were a little kid. It’s nice to get this carrot dangled in front of you to show them if they really work hard at this game, that really means they can do this for a living. I’m super excited for them.”
Chase Illig led the Mountaineers with two hits and two RBI, including the game-winner in the fourth. Zarbnisky extended his hitting streak to nine games.
With runners on the corners, Illig singled home Jackson Cramer to give WVU a 1-0 lead in the second inning.
Kyle Gray led off the third with a base hit down the right field line and scored on Zarbnisky’s groundout.
In the fourth, the Mountaineers pushed their lead to 3-0. After being issued a free pass to start the inning, Cramer scored on Illig’s double to right center.
Penn State (15-33) cut the deficit to 3-1 in the bottom half when Ryan Sloniger single through the right side knocked in Christian Helsel.
However, WVU got the run back on Cole Austin’s sacrifice fly in the fifth.
Wood relieved Kessler in the fifth and kept the Nittany Lions off the board. He pitched a 1-2-3 sixth and gave up one hit in the seventh.
Trailing by three in the eighth, Nick Riotto and Willie Burger hit back-to-back doubles. Next, Helsel doubled down the left field line, scoring Riotto. After Wood walked the bases loaded, Zarbnisky came on and got a strike out to end the inning.
The Mountaineers will host Gardner-Webb for a three-game series, beginning Friday at 6:30 p.m. (ET). On Sunday, WVU will honor seniors Cramer and Jackson Sigman.