MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–West Virginia University starting pitcher Braden Zarbnisky tossed four scoreless innings and the Mountaineers survived a late rally by Virginia Tech to defeat the Hokies 5-4 on Tuesday at Monongalia County Ballpark.
“We actually played pretty well early in the game,” WVU head coach Randy Mazey said. “We got the leadoff man on in the first three innings. A couple of bunts, a couple hit-and-runs, executing, and the next thing you know we score in each of those innings. It’s a good team win. We’ve been winning games by slugging the ball around and we didn’t do that tonight and still won the game. It’s nice to know you can win games in different fashions.”
The Mountaineers (24-19) scored a run in five of the first six innings.
Freshman right-hander Zarbnisky earned his first win as a starter. He surrendered just three hits and struck out three.
“This is his third start in a row, which he has pitched really well and he keeps doing that,” Mazey said. “If we were a little deeper in the bullpen on the weekends, we could let him run this game. But he’s pitching so well on Tuesday’s that we are a little bit thin in the pen right now with some injuries so we have to get him out of there in case one of our weekend starters doesn’t get deep into the game.”
Senior righty Blake Smith earned his sixth save of the season with a scoreless ninth. He fanned two and gave up two hits, but got the final out on a stunning play by center fielder KC Huth to throw out the Virginia Tech runner at third base.
Junior first baseman Jackson Cramer led WVU with two hits, including a solo blast over the right center wall in the fifth.
The Mountaineers took a 1-0 advantage in the first. Freshman Ivan Vera singled up the middle to drive in designated hitter Kyle Davis.
WVU tacked on a run in the second. Sophomore Caleb Potter led off the inning with a single through the left side. Cole Austin reached on an error, moving Potter to second. Both moved up 90 feet on a fielder’s choice. Freshman shortstop Jimmy Galusky drove in Potter with a sacrifice fly to deep left field.
Zarbnisky got into a jam in the third but escaped untarnished. A leadoff double and a one-out walk put runners on first and second but a fielder’s choice and a strikeout ended the inning.
The Mountaineers added to their lead in the bottom of the third. Freshman right fielder Darius Hill reached on the Hokies third baseman Sam Fragale’s throwing error, went to second on a sacrifice bunt and reached third on Cramer’s base hit. Junior catcher Ray Guerrini knocked in Hill with a single through the left side.
Cramer’s home run in the fifth put WVU up 4-0.
Junior right-hander Jackson Sigman came on in the sixth entered in the sixth, inheriting a bases loaded, one-out jam. He struck out the first batter before giving up a RBI single to Fragale. However, Sigman limited the damage by striking out Joe Freiday.
The Mountaineers answered right back with a run in the bottom of the sixth to regain a four-run lead. Galusky led off the inning with a double and advanced to third on a passed ball. Davis walked and Hill reached on a fielder’s choice to score Galusky for another unearned run.
The Hokies weren’t done just yet. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases for Virginia Tech. Sigman got Garrett Hudson to ground out, allowing one run to score. Mazey called upon on freshman Jacob Brewer to clean up the damage but Tom Stoffell’s single through the right side scored two, cutting the Hokies’ deficit to 5-4. Mazey brought on sophomore Conner Dotson to record the final two outs of the inning.
WVU takes on Texas on Friday for a three-game series. The Mountaineers are a half game behind the Longhorns for fourth place in the Big 12 standings.