West Virginia University baseball (30-19) head coach Randy Mazey said prior to the first game of two Friday between his Mountaineers and the visiting William & Mary Tribe that 80-percent of double headers are split between the two teams playing.
Recent history for both teams indicated that he would likely be right, as both W&M and WVU had played in and split three double headers apiece this season. Even more predictably, the Tribe had made it a habit of winning the first game, but losing the second when they’ve been forced to play twice in one day.
Behind a dramatic comeback in Game 1, and a quick start offensively combined with strong pitching late in Game 2, the Mountaineers came out on the right side in both games Friday, winning a pair of one-run games to sweep the double header.
It was William & Mary (24-25) that got off to a hot start in Game 1.
The Tribe scored a pair of runs in the first inning on a two-RBI double to left field by Charlie Gould with one out. Those were the only two runs scored in the game by W&M that weren’t driven in with two outs.
Two-out hitting was the story of the first game for the Tribe, who as a team was a combined 10-for-19 hitting with two outs.
Gould singled and then came around to score with two outs in the third inning, touching home on a double by Josh Smith. Smith came around to score during the next at bat, which resulted in an RBI-single by Hunter Smith, giving the Tribe a 4-0 lead.
William & Mary added one run in the fifth, and then knocked West Virginia starter Chad Donato out of the game by scored two more runs with two outs in the seventh inning.
Donato lasted 6.2 innings on the mound, giving up seven runs – six earned – on 11 hits while striking out six.
Down 7-0 in the first game of two, Mazey decided to pull all but two of his starting position players. And the reserves jump-started the offense.
Hitting with two on and two out in the bottom of the seventh, pinch hitter Shaun Wood blasted a three-run home run to right field, cutting the deficit to 7-3.
Seth Jordan kept the Tribe off the board in the eighth. And the reserves kept hitting for WVU.
Following a strike out for the second out of the inning, Marques Inman singled to left field loading the bases and keeping the inning alive. The next hitter, KC Huth, who has been struggling at the plate, hit a base-clearing double to the wall in left-center field bringing the Mountaineers to within one run, 7-6.
Shaun Corso followed with a single through the left side of the infield; plating Huth to tie the game a seven runs apiece.
The game went into extra innings, and Blake Smith got out of the top of the 10th without any damage.
In the bottom of the inning, Jackson Cramer led off by striking out, but a throwing error by catcher Hunter Smith allowed Cramer to make it all the way to second base. A sacrifice bunt moved him to third, and after Huth was intentionally walked, Corso once again came through in the clutch, singling to right field and driving in the game-winning run.
The Mountaineers took Game 1 by a final score of 8-7 in extras.
Game 2 of a double header is even harder to win than Game 1, especially for the team that took the first contest.
West Virginia’s offense – with the regulars back in the lineup – started the nightcap right where they left off just 40 minutes prior; scoring a pair of runs in the first inning.
Ivan Vera drove in the opening run on a ground out, and then Cramer whacked his 8th home run of the year over the left field fence, giving WVU an early 2-0 lead.
William & Mary tied things on a two-run home run by Ryan Hall in the third inning.
In the first two innings, West Virginia starter Ross Vance struck out a combined four Tribe hitters, and he sat down two more on strikes immediately following Hall’s long ball.
WVU responded to the homer by scoring two more runs in the bottom of the inning. Cramer tripled home a run, and then scored as result of the Ray Guerrini’s RBI groundout.
After W&M added a run in the top of the fourth, scoring on a wild pitch, WVU put two more runs on the board in the bottom half of the frame. Kyle Davis’ second single of the game drove in Kyle Gray, and the next hitter Darius Hill drove in Davis on a double that bounced over the first baseman’s head and down the right field line.
WVU led 6-3 after four innings.
The Tribe knocked Vance out of the game in the fifth, following a solo home run by Charles Ameer to lead off the inning. They then tied the game 6-6 with two runs in the sixth.
Looking to start some more late-inning magic for the Mountaineers, Davis drew a walk to lead off the seventh, and then was advanced to second on a sac bunt. Cramer was intentionally walked with two outs, bringing up Guerrini.
Brian Murphy brought in his side armer, Charlie Fletcher, out of the pen looking to get the final out. Instead, Guerrini served the 2-1 pitch into center field, breaking the tie and giving WVU a 7-6 lead.
The Mountaineers hung on to the slim advantage, due in large part to impressive performances out of their own bullpen by Braden Zarbnisky and Smith. “Zarb” struck out four and allowed just one hit during his 2.1 IP, earning the win, and Smith struck out all three batters he faced in the ninth inning to earn his eighth save of the year.
With the two wins, West Virginia stays hot, now having won its last eight games in a row, and 11 of its last 12 contests.
The two teams play the final game of the three-game weekend series on Sunday at 1 p.m.