By Ryan Decker
Turning the ball over to the bullpen is something that West Virginia (19-12) head coach Randy Mazey has done with much success this season.
When he turned to the pen following a good outing by freshman starting pitcher Alek Manoah Tuesday, though, he didn’t get the same performance he and Mountaineer fans have come to expect.
Maryland (21-10) scored five runs in the seventh inning off a pair of WVU relievers to pull off a 7-5 comeback victory.
West Virginia got to Maryland starter, Taylor Bloom, early. Two of the first three batters reached base in the first inning to put runners on the corners for cleanup hitter, Cole Austin.
Austin cleaned up indeed, clearing the bases on a three-run home run that cleared the large batter’s eye in center field at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium and gave the Mountaineers an early 3-0 lead.
Bloom was pulled in the third inning, and reliever Tayler Stiles was welcomed into the game the hard way.
Stiles’ fifth pitch was crushed over the right-field fence by Jackson Cramer; a solo home run that gave WVU a 4-0 lead.
Cramer led the way at the plate for WVU, hitting 3-for-4, scoring twice and driving in a run.
Maryland threatened to cut into the early WVU lead, but Manoah settled down, stranding four Terrapin runners through the first two innings. Manoah’s pitch count was above 60 after completing the third frame, but he pitched efficiently over the course of the next three innings he toed the rubber.
In total, the WVU freshman tossed six innings of two-hit baseball, striking out six and walking three. His lone big mistake was a two-run home run given up to Madison Nickens with two outs in the sixth, which cut the deficit in half for the Terps.
Nickens drove in four of Maryland’s seven runs, going 2-for-4 at the dish.
The Mountaineers responded, adding a run in the top of the seventh on a sacrifice fly to left field by Brandon White, allowing Kyle Gray to tag up and score, once again giving West Virginia a three-run lead, 5-2.
Gray finished the game 2-for-4 at the plate, as he continues to heat up.
Jackson Sigman’s recent struggles continued, though.
Sigman surrendered a solo home run to the first batter he faced. Then after striking out the next batter on four pitches, the following four hitters reached base on a pair of singles and two walks, the single by Nick Dunn driving in the second run of the inning to pull Maryland within one run.
AJ Lee continued the scoring spree off Sigman, using a bunt single to score the tying run, and knocking the WVU reliever out of the game.
Braden Zarbnisky took over in attempt to stop the bleeding, but Nickens got to him as well, singling through the left side and driving in a pair of runners to give Maryland its first lead of the day at 7-5.
“Zarb” was able to retire the next to batters to put and end to the inning.
West Virginia made things interesting in the ninth, loading the bases on a Cramer single. Austin drove in a run on a sac-fly, plating Gray to pull within one run with two outs.
Darius Hill struck out to end the game as result of a lengthy at bat.
WVU returns home this weekend for a three-game set against Big 12 Conference opponent No. 3 Texas Christian University (26-5).