Wednesday night was the second night of a mid-week back-to-back schedule for the West Virginia Mountaineers (16-11) as they took on Eastern Michigan (12-16) at Monongalia County Ballpark.
Coming off an extra-innings victory Tuesday night against state rival Marshall, there were questions of a possible let down for the Mountaineers given the situation.
Going into last week’s games against a Canisius team that, like Eastern Michigan, had a sub-.500 record but was riding a win streak, West Virginia played down to their competition and used a lot of pitchers.
Last Tuesday night eight total pitchers were used as the Mountaineers dropped the game in extra innings, and the next night the Canisius bats erupted against West Virginia pitching to keep the Golden Griffin’s win streak alive.
To make matters worse, Randy Mazey’s club was heading into a weekend series at home against No. 16 Oklahoma State.
Looking to avoid an elongated loosing streak the Mountaineers rose to the challenge.
West Virginia won its game Friday night with the help of the long ball by Jackson Cramer and late inning heroics by Marques Inman.
Inman, a freshman, came up to bat in the ninth inning in a pinch-hit situation with two outs and a runner in scoring position. Inman slapped a single through the right side that was just deep enough to allow Jimmy Galusky to score from second base to tie the game.
One inning later, Cramer, the Mountaineers’ best power hitter who already hit a ball that left the yard in the sixth inning, hit the first pitch he saw to deep centerfield. Cowboys centerfielder Ryan Sluder jumped at the wall, but wasn’t tall enough to bring the ball back over the fence, and the ball landed at the base of the batter’s eye for a walk-off home run, which gave the ‘Eers a 5-4 victory.
West Virginia won another tightly contested game Saturday, winning 4-3 with the help of a good performance on the mound by Ross Vance, just one night after Chad Donato lasted nine innings and gave up just three hits.
KC Huth and Darius Hill hit back-to-back home runs in the seventh, which went a long way in the Mountaineers taking game two and the series.
Sunday, we saw the reason the Cowboys were so highly touted going into the weekend series, as Oklahoma St. won 8-1, the lone run for West Virginia coming on a Huth home run to left.
Sure Mazey and company wanted to get the sweep, but taking two out of three against a nationally ranked team was a step in the right direction.
Following Tuesday night’s win in the state capital against the Thundering Heard, Wednesday’s game against Eastern Michigan had a similar feeling to the game one-week prior against Canisius.
To their credit, the Mountaineers didn’t fall into a similar outcome, winning 5-1 behind a strong outing on the mound by staring pitcher Tanner Campbell.
West Virginia jumped on top with a run in the first inning, and scored a pair of runs in the third to take a 3-0 lead. That lead was extended to 5-0 on a double by Hill in the sixth inning.
After Campbell left the game, exiting after five innings of one-hit ball, the bullpen found itself in a two bases loaded jams, but escaped relatively unscathed, allowing just the one run.
Campbell’s performance earned him his second win, and Jeff Hardy earned his second save of the season.
Hill went 2-for-4 at the plate with a pair of RBI, Inman also drove in two runs going 2-for-3, and catcher Ivan Vera never failed to reach base, going 1-for-1 with a double and three walks.
Inman, playing a bit out of position at second base, made the most of it, including a highlight catch that earned him a Top 10 Play on Sports Center.
Having won four out of their last five games, the Mountaineers now look forward to a weekend series at home against a struggling Furman (11-17) team that is just 1-10 away from Latham Baseball Stadium.
First pitch for Friday’s series opener is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
You can listen to all Mountaineer home baseball games on 91.7 FM, with pre-game coverage of Friday’s game starting around 6:15 p.m.