Football is in full swing, but October has brought College Baseball back into action here in Morgantown.
The West Virginia University Baseball team has played the first two of its Fall Baseball games over the past two weeks, facing Potomac State on Sept. 27 and then playing the Waynesburg Yellow Jackets on Oct. 2.
After the Mountaineers lost the opening contest of their five-game fall schedule, they bounced back to defeat the Yellow Jackets 11-2 on a rainy Friday night.
“This fall is important for us, for our guys to learn how to turn this into a home field advantage,” WVU Head Coach Randy Mazey said prior to the game against Potomac St. “It’s been good to get out here every day. It’s nice to play against outside competition. Any opportunity we get to play in the fall, this is where we start determining our lineup, and who’s going to pitch in what role. So, these games are super important to us in the fall.”
Playing in its first game since being eliminated from the Big 12 Tournament in May, WVU looked a little rusty against the Catamounts.
Starting pitcher Braden Zarbnisky gave up three runs on four hits in the first inning, allowing six of the first seven batters to reach base. Zarbnisky was pulled from the game at the end of the inning.
West Virginia got two of those runs back in the bottom of the second inning on a two-RBI double by catcher Ray Guerrini. Guerrini is one of just five seniors on this young Mountaineer squad.
One of the team’s newest members, freshman Jacob Brewer, looked very good in his three innings of work. Brewer struck out the side in the second inning, sat down two more batters in the third, and then got the final two batters in the fifth to fly out to center field after he issued a one-out walk to Jack Ricker.
West Virginia put a runner in scoring position in both the fourth and fifth innings, but could not get either runner home to score, and with Potomac State’s offense shut down by the WVU pitching after the big first inning, the score remained 3-2 through the middle innings.
That was until the Catamounts’ bats woke back up in the seventh, putting three runs on the board to push the lead to four.
Kyle Gray scored in the bottom of the frame for West Virginia, cutting the deficit to 6-3, but the score would remain the same for the rest of the game.
With another week of practice under their belts, the young Mountaineer team bounced back on Friday with a lopsided victory.
“I think gaining the lead early allowed us to play with a lot more energy today,” Mazey told wvusports.com reporter Amy Salvatore. “Last time we played, we gave up four runs in the first inning, so we were playing catch-up the whole game.”
Trailing 2-1 after the fourth inning, WVU scored three runs in the fifth, one in the sixth, and then exploded for six runs in the seventh.
WVU sent 11 batters to the plate in the seventh inning, scoring six runs on six straight hits. Shaun Wood hit an RBI double, and Gray knocked in two more runs with a single to center.
Then, two batters later, Guerrini blasted a three-run home run to left field, extending the Mountaineers’ lead to 11-2.
Hustle was a notable difference for WVU between the two games.
West Virginia batters legged out three infield singles Friday and were being aggressive on the base paths, twice executing hit-and-run plays. Defensively, freshman Ivan Verra, who started behind the plate at catcher, looked good, picking off two runners in a matter of pitches.
But it was Guerrini who made the play of the game in the eighth inning when he ran down a pop up behind home plate, diving into the screen to make the catch.
West Virginia plays again Friday Oct. 16 and 17 at home against Marshall.