WVU ends month of April on positive note

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Ross Vance delivers a pitch against Baylor in the Mountaineers 5-1 win Saturday.   Photo by Tyson Murray / All-Pro Photography

The month of April wasn’t very kind to the West Virginia University (23-19, 8-9) baseball team.

Heading into the most recent weekend series against Baylor, WVU was just 9-8 in the fourth calendar month and had lost each of the previous three weekend series.

Behind complete game performances by Chad Donato on Friday and Ross Vance in Game 2 of Saturday’s double-header, the Mountaineers ended the month of April on a positive note by taking two games out of three from the Bears.

For a team in West Virginia that looked well on its way to making an appearance in the NCAA Tournament following a successful month of March, the Mountaineers have struggled in April to say the least. Although, it was some of the things that WVU had been struggling with for most of the month that they were successful with this weekend.

For one, pitching had been in consistent.

Mountaineer starting pitchers, including the three games against Baylor, averaged just under six innings pitched per start during April. That itself isn’t terrible, but considering there were eight games in which the starting did not record an out in the sixth inning, it’s not great either.

Relief pitching has also been shaky for Randy Mazey’s club.

During the 20 games in April, the Mountaineers were +12 in the run column when the starters left the game. With the relievers on the mound, WVU was –12. In total, opponents scored 59 runs during the 63.2 IP thrown by relievers, in comparison to the 52 runs that were scored against the starting pitchers during their 119.1 innings pitched.

Offensively, the Mountaineers hitters overall had a much better second-half of the month than they did during the first half.

Through the first six series in April, the WVU offense only managed to put six or more runs on the board three times. Starting with the game against Youngstown State, the Mountaineers ended the month by scoring at least six runs in a game six times, including three double-digit run outputs.

One of those came Friday night against the Bears, as WVU scored 10 runs on 12 hits, including a two-run home run in the fifth by Ray Guerrini that was preceded by two-RBI single to right field by Jackson Cramer.

Donato went the distance in that game, striking out nine and allowing just two hits, facing just three batters over the minimum and needing well under 100 pitches to do so.

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WVU catcher Ray Guerrini (42) and starting pitcher Chad Donato (2) shake hands after Donato after the final out is recorded in Friday night’s 10-0 win over Baylor.   Photo by Dale Sparks / All-Pro Photography

After dropping the first game on Saturday, Vance had an impressive performance of his own in Game 2 of the double-header, which became the rubber match of the series.

Vance pitched all nine innings, allowing just one unearned run on seven hits while striking out nine, tying his season high.

The impressive outings ended streaks for both pitchers.

Vance had not gotten a win since April 2 against Oklahoma St., when he pitched 7.1 strong innings. It had been even longer since Donato earned a win. He had either taken the loss or no decision in each of his last four starts, and had not won a decision since March 25 against Kansas in Lawrence.

Offensively, freshman Darius Hill ended April with the highest average on the team of batters who qualify. He’s hitting at a .346 clip, and also leads the team in hits (55), runs scored (35), doubles (15), and slugging percentage (.535).

Outside of Hill, the two catchers have been the biggest offensive threats for the Mountaineers.

Guerrini is second on the team with a .284 average, has blasted five home runs and has been especially hot over the past two weeks.

Ivan Vera, one of the many freshmen that Mazey gives significant playing time to, is hitting at an amazing .437 rate in the 27 games he’s played in. (He has not yet registered 100 at bats this season, so he does not qualify for statistical leadership, but his stats are legit in the sense that when you see him play, you know these are the results you are going to get out of him.)

West Virginia continues it’s 12-game home stand this week with a game Tuesday against Virginia Tech at 6:30 p.m. followed by a three-game weekend series against Big 12 opponent Texas.

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