By Ryan Decker
West Virginia and Virginia Tech’s football teams are scheduled to meet on the gridiron at FedEx Field on Sunday, Sept. 3 in the season opener.
Tuesday the two schools battled on the diamond in what could be considered a spring appetizer for what’s to come in the fall.
Senior reliever Jackson Sigman, part of a bullpen that has come under some scrutiny of late, attempted to single-handedly silence all critics, striking out eight VT hitters in West Virginia’s (24-15, 9-6) win in Blacksburg by a final score of 8-6 that ended a two-game losing steak.
Already leading 1-0, Virginia Tech (20-23, 8-13) threatened to have multi-run innings in its first two at bats, but broke through in the bottom of the third.
The Hokies sent seven hitters to the plate, chasing WVU starting pitcher Isaiah Kearns from the ballgame early.
Mountaineer reliever Cody Wood entered the game with two on and two out in the third, and already one run across in the inning, but made a mistake pitch that Matt Dauby capitalized on, sending the 1-1 pitch over the fence in left-center field. The three-run home run gave VT a 5-0 lead.
WVU was not to be outdone.
The Mountaineers scored six runs in the top of the fourth to take the lead. Three of those runs came on Kyle Davis’ sixth home run of the season, which brought WVU back to within on run.
Five batters later, Ivan Gonzalez put a ball in play to the left side of the infield that was booted by Hokies shortstop Ryan Tufts. The fielding error, coming with two outs, allowed Brandon White to score the tying run, and Jimmy Galusky to touch home as the go-ahead run, putting the Mountaineers ahead 6-5.
Following Virginia Tech’s big inning, West Virginia pitching held the Hokies relatively in check the rest of the way, only facing more than four hitters in a single inning once. That was in the bottom of the fifth when VT tied the game on an RBI-single by Joe Freiday, Jr.
The side-arm throwing senior, Sigman, in large part fueled the relief effort by the Mountaineers.
Sigman retired eight of the first nine batters he faced – six via strikeouts.
The senior continued to be successful through the eighth, sitting two more hitters down on strikes to bring his total to a season-high eight.
Once again, though, a defensive miscue committed by the Virginia Tech defense, allowed an unearned run to score in the top of the sixth as the Mountaineers regained the lead.
West Virginia added an insurance run in the top of the ninth on a safety-squeeze executed by Gonzalez. Braden Zarbnisky came in to pitch in the ninth, and recorded the save.
Sigman earned the win.
Cole Austin led WVU hitters, going 2-for-4 at the plate as the only Mountaineer hitter to have a multi-hit game.
West Virginia has now won eight of the last 12 meetings between the two schools on the diamond dating back to 2003.
Hitters heating up
Brandon White’s leadoff triple in the ninth inning Friday not only put him in scoring position to start the frame, but also extended his hitting streak to eight games.
Kyle Gray, who’s average continues to climb, and is now well over .250, will head back to Morgantown with one of the hottest bats on the team. Not only is his average rising but so are his RBI totals, as the sophomore infielder drove in seven runs during the road trip.
Grove Injury update
Starting pitcher Michael Grove left Saturday’s game against Kansas State with an arm injury and was evaluated by a doctor on Monday. According to reports (link), initial tests showed no ligament damage to his arm, but did show a strain in his forearm.
The team is targeting Grove to return to action during the final series of the year on the road against Texas May 19-21.
West Virginia returns home this weekend for a three-game series against Oklahoma. That series begins a stretch of games in which the Mountaineers will play 12 out of 13 at Monongalia County Ballpark.
The only game to be played away from Morgantown during that stretch is on May 10 against Penn State, in a game that will be played at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.