By Ryan Decker
WINSTON-SALEM – Wake Forest’s (41-18) Gavin Sheets is one of the most feared hitters in the Atlantic Coast Conference, leading the conference in home runs (20) and runs batted in (80) this year.
West Virginia (35-25) elected to intentionally walk Stuart Fairchild with one in the ninth inning, hoping to turn a double play to go to extras. It didn’t work.
Sheets sent a long fly ball to right-center field that hit off the base of the wall and easily allowed Jonathan Pryor for the 4-3, walk-off victory over WVU Saturday night at David F. Couch Ballpark.
“Somebody had to lose it I guess, shame it was us,” Mazey said. “You don’t realize it right now, how much fun it was because you’re so disappointed, but, gosh.”
Pryor singled to start the ninth and was moved over to second on a sacrifice bunt. After the intentional walk was issued to Fairchild, two were on with one out for Sheets, who had been held hitless to that point in the game.
Sheets connected on a pitch, sending it to right field and driving in the winning run, bringing the entire Wake Forrest team from the dugout.
“They deserved to win,” Mazey said. “They were down three and grinded it out, and got hits when they needed to off our best pitchers.”
West Virginia reliever Braden Zarbnisky had gotten out of jams the previous two innings since coming in in relief in the seventh.
Zarbnisky did, however, give up the game-tying double to Pryor, the first batter he faced in relief in the seventh.
Bases were loaded shortly after the Pryor double, but Zarbnisky was able to strike out Sheets to escape the threat.
He once again faced trouble in the eighth, as an infield single put runners on the corners with two outs. Zarbnisky was able to get another strikeout to get of of the jam and keep the score tied at 3-3 entering the ninth.
West Virginia got the scoring started, tallying all three of its runs in the first inning.
Kyle Gray led off the game with a double down the right field line, and he was driven in on a single to left by Darius Hill.
Two batters later, Jackson Cramer pulled a ball to right field, well past the fence in right for a two-run home run that gave WVU a 3-0 lead.
The Mountaineer bats went silent after that.
Wake Forest starter Parker Dunshee retired 17 of the next 19 WVU hitters he faced, from the second through the seventh inning.
West Virginia showed some life by getting two runners on in the eighth, but both were stranded after Demon Deacon closer, Griffin Roberts, struck out each of the next two hitters.
Freshman Isaiah Kearns started on the mound for WVU, going four-plus innings, while allowing two runs on three hits. Both those runs came on a home run by Bruce Steel in the fifth, which brought Wake Forest back to within one run, 3-2, and knocked Kearns out of the game.
Sam Kessler was strong in relief, throwing 2.2 innings, and giving up just one run on one hit while striking out five.
Over 3,000 fans were in attendance Saturday night, with a large number of those fans being supporters of West Virginia. The 3,018 fans were the most to see a ballgame in this ballpark since 2009.
WVU is back in action Sunday at noon against Maryland in an elimination game. The loser is done for the year, whereas the winner of that game plays again at 5 p.m. against Wake Forest.