Friday night the West Virginia University baseball team (3-1) began a road trip during which the Mountaineers will play games in three different states over an 11-day span.
WVU played the first of those games Friday against the University of Nevada-Las Vegas Rebels (1-3).
A big first inning appeared as though it would set the table for the rest of the game for the Mountaineers, but UNLV tied everything up late in the game.
WVU’s offense woke back up in the final inning, scoring three runs in the frame to take the first game of the three-game series by the score of 9-6.
West Virginia scored three runs in the top of the first inning to get things started.
Kyle Davis led off with a home run, smacking the third pitch of the game far beyond the left-field fence. With Darius Hill on first base, freshman Cole Austin one-upped Davis by hitting a two-run homer to left, giving West Virginia an early 3-0 lead.
UNLV starting pitcher D.J. Meyer recovered by striking out each of the next three batters to escape any further damage.
West Virginia extended its lead by scoring three more runs in the second. All three runners came around to score with two outs.
Hill, down in the count 1-2, drilled a pitch to straightaway center field that dropped over the head of the centerfielder, allowing two runs to score. Hill touched home to give West Virginia a 6-1 lead on a ball put in play by Austin that got past the second baseman.
Chad Donato, who after a long first inning was in which he gave up a run, worked efficiently over the next two, striking out five batters through the first three innings.
UNLV threatened to tack on at least one more run in the bottom of the fourth by putting two runners on with one out. Donato, though, worked out of the jam, squandering the Rebels’ scoring opportunity by striking out each of the next two batters.
However, Donato couldn’t avoid trouble in the fifth inning.
UNLV scored three runs with two outs in the inning. Two of the runs came on back-to-back RBI doubles by Justin Jones and Kyle Isbel.
Another runner came around to tough home on a bloop-single, as the Rebels trimmed the West Virginia lead to 6-4.
Donato stayed out of trouble in the sixth and seventh innings, but got into a tight spot once again in the eighth.
He got Isbel to strike out looking and then got the third batter of the frame to fly out to left field for the second out.
Donato was pulled from the game after hitting the next batter, and replaced by Brandon Boone. It wasn’t Boone’s night. The junior pitcher gave up the two-RBI double to Andrew Yazdanbakhsh which tied the game at six runs apiece, hit the next batter and the walked Cody Howard to load the bases.
Connor Dotson entered the game in relief for the Mountaineers, and induced a ground ball off the bat of Nick Rodriguez that looked like it may squeak through the infield. Cole Austin, though, gloved it and stepped on second base just ahead of the runner for the final out of the innings.
West Virginia scored its first run since the second inning in the ninth.
KC Huth started things off by reaching base via a walk, and reached third base due to an errant pick off attempt and a wild pitch. Jimmy Galusky singled Huth home to re-gain the lead for West Virginia, 7-6.
Two batters later, Hill connected for the first long ball of his college career, a two-run shot to take the lead back out to to three runs for WVU.
Hill went 3-5 in the game, including the home run, scored three times and drove in four runners. He was also one of just two West Virginia players to have multiple hits in the game.
Dotson was credited with win.
The two teams play each other again Saturday at 5 p.m. ET and finish the series at 4 p.m. on Sunday. After that the Mountaineers will travel to Scottsdale, Arizona to play the Arizona Diamondbacks in an exhibition game.
WVU concludes the road trip with a four-game series against Hawaii before returning home.
West Virginia’s home opener is March 11 against Old Dominion.