By Ryan Decker
West Virginia (15-10, 4-2) experienced a setback before play even began Sunday at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium, when scheduled starting pitcher Conner Dotson suffered an arm injury while warming up in the bullpen.
Freshman Kade Strowd was given the ball in the emergency start in the rubber match against No. 23 Oklahoma State (16-11, 1-5).
Strowd and fellow freshman Ryan McDonald kept the Cowboys at bay from the mound, while first-year players Chase Illig and Brandon White proved instrumental at the plate and in the field. A late rally brought OSU within one run, but the Mountaineers held on for a 9-8 win in a stressful series finale.
West Virginia started the scoring with an RBI-double by Jimmy Galusky that allowed Illig to score all the way from first.
WVU had a chance to add to its lead later in the second inning, but stranded a pair of runners in scoring position keeping the score at 1-0.
The lead was short lived, as Dustin Williams, hitting with a runner on, hit his first home run of the year to the opposite field to give Oklahoma State a one-run lead.
WVU would not be deterred, loading the bases with no one out in the top of the third. It took advantage of the opportunity.
Darius Hill tied the game with a hard-hit infield single. Two batters later, Illig sent a long fly ball over the fence in right field for a grand slam that gave WVU a 6-2 lead and knocked OSU starter Blake Battenfield out of the game.
Strowd toed the rubber well for Randy Mazey given the situation.
The freshman surrendered just two hits and struck out three during his 4.1 innings on the mound. He did, however, walk five, which elevated his pitch count.
McDonald replaced him with one out recorded in the fifth inning. He pitched effectively for the most part, but did give up a pair of home runs to Colin Simpson, the latter cutting the Mountaineer lead to 9-5 in the bottom of the eighth.
Jackson Sigman replaced McDonald, surrendering an RBI single in the eighth, and then Braden Zarbnisky gave up a two-run home run to Garrett Benge in the bottom of the ninth, to pull the Cowboys within one.
White had an outstanding day, going 2 for 3 at the plate, while stealing two bases and scoring WVU’s seventh run of the game. He also made a pair of highlight plays in centerfield, including a full-extension diving catch in the bottom of the sixth.
Ivan Gonzalez joined White as the Mountaineer hitters with multi-hit performances. Seven of the nine starters recorded a hit for WVU.
Hill’s single in the third inning extended his hitting streak to six games. He has registered a hit in all but three games this season.
It’s unclear exactly what injury Dotson suffered in pre-game warmups, though it was confirmed that it was an arm injury. IMG’s Dan Zangrilli said during his summary of the event that Dotson left the field with a sling on his arm.
Dotson was reportedly on the ground for several minutes after the injury occurred.
Oklahoma State won the series opener Friday night by a final score of 3-2.
Cowboys starting pitcher Tyler Buffett threw a complete game, giving up just two runs in a pitcher’s duel between he and WVU starter BJ Myers.
Myers struck out 10 on the mound, but Buffett was too strong down the stretch for OSU, retiring the last nine WVU batters in order.
West Virginia scored five unanswered runs over the final four innings in a comeback-victory on Saturday.
The Mountaineers trailed 3-0 entering the seventh inning, but Cole Austin’s two-run home run in the top of the ninth tied the game at three runs apiece.
WVU then scored two more runs in the tenth and went on to win 5-3 in extras.
WVU has five games on the docket in the upcoming week with a pair of mid-week games and a three-game weekend series.
The Mountaineers host Marshall (11-13) on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. and Morehead State (22-6) the next day with first pitch at 5 p.m. The Eagles are coming off a 22-0 win Sunday over the University of Massachusetts and are winners of each of their last nine.
They then welcome in the Kansas Jayhawks (11-15) to Monongalia County Ballpark for a three-game series. Play begins Friday evening at 6:30 p.m.
West Virginia will play eight of its next nine games at home.