Grove’s gem lifts WVU over UMD

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West Virginia’s Michael Grove delivers a pitch Tuesday night against Maryland.   Photo via Dale Sparks / All-Pro Photography

Michael Grove was scheduled to start Game 3 of the West Virginia Mountaineers’ (28-19) series this past weekend against Texas.

However, going into his start, Gove felt under the weather, which pushed back his start to Tuesday night against border rival Maryland (25-22).

With the few extra days rest, Grove looked at full strength during WVU’s mid-week game, striking out a career-high 13 batters in West Virginia’s 4-1 victory over the Terrapins.

“We’re feeling pretty confident,” WVU head coach Randy Mazey told reporters after the game. “Everyone in the dugout feels like we’re going to win every game. We’re starting to really get comfortable in this park, swinging the bat well.”

Grove picked up his second win of the season Tuesday night in a game that was delayed 50 minutes due to rain.

And even though the rain may have disrupted Grove’s early-game rhythm slightly, as he allowed a runner to get into scoring position in each of the first two innings, the freshman never looked rattled on the mound.

Grove went 6.2 strong innings, allowing just one unearned run on six hits, while striking out 13. The lone run scored against him was on a bloop-single to right field by Kevin Biondic in the fourth inning. He plated Madison Nickens, who reached second base on an error by Jimmy Galusky after a strong throw by Ray Guerrini appeared to have the Terrapin runner out by a mile as he was trying to steal second base.

WVU, which trailed for just 1 ½ innings all weekend, wasted no time responding, scoring in the bottom of the frame, first on a sacrifice fly by Ivan Vera, followed by a laser home run to right field by Jackson Cramer.

Grove never faced more than five batters in an inning, and in both the fifth and sixth innings set Maryland down in order with the help of three strikeouts during the two frames.

Offensively, WVU added a pair of insurance runs in the late innings, scoring one run on a single by Kyle Gray in the seventh, and then scoring the team’s fourth and final run of the game on another sacrifice fly by Vera in the eighth.

The four runs marks the first time since April 22 against Oklahoma that West Virginia did not score five or more runs in a game, ending a streak of 10 straight games.

That much offense wasn’t needed with Grove on the mound, as the Wheeling, West Virginia native helped his club pick up their sixth straight victory, the longest winning streak of the season.

Darius Hill and Cramer, who was named Big 12 Player of the Week for the second-straight week and third time overall on Monday, each went 2-for-4 and scored a run. And Vera continues to have success at the plate, going 1-for-2 with a pair of RBI.

“I’ve been telling people all year long, our team success revolves around the success of the older guys in the middle of the lineup,” Mazey said before the game. “When (Cramer) wasn’t swinging it well we weren’t winning many games. And when he swings it well we win them all it seems like. The guys in the middle of the lineup have to produce if you want your team to win.”

Cramer hit for a .500 average last week, and is off to another good start to this week after his 2-for-4 performance. It is now the ninth time this season a West Virginia player has gotten a Big 12 Athlete of the Week award.

“Our guys are just as good as anybody in the league,” said Mazey. “We’ve done a good job of recruiting these guys, and they’ve played well. We know we belong in this league and we’re right in the middle of the pack, and our players get as many awards as anybody else. For Cramer to be I think only the fifth player in the history of this league to get the award three times in a row, and we’ve still got two weekends to play I hope he gets it two more times.”

Coming up for West Virginia is a three-game weekend series at home against William & Mary, the final home games of the year. That series gets started Friday with Game 1 of the double header scheduled to get underway at 4 p.m. and Game 2 being played shortly after the conclusion of the first contest. The series finale will be played Sunday at 1 p.m.

After that the Mountaineers hit the road for four games, one against Pittsburg and three against Texas Tech.

“We’ve got good teams ahead of us,” Mazey said. “We’ve got an opportunity in front of us – if we play well down the stretch – to do some things. I think the guys are excited about the challenge in front of us. I really think we’re gonna come out and play well these next three or four games.”

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