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Big Third Inning Thwarts Black Bears on Opening Day

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West Virginia pitcher Kevin Dowdell. Logan Adams/WVSportsNow

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – At about 7:12 p.m. Monday evening, West Virginia left-hander Kevin Dowdell delivered a ball to Mahoning Valley’s Mathieu Vallee and minor league baseball had returned to Morgantown for the first time since 2019. The team is in a different league and has a new manager but the Black Bears are still bringing minor league baseball to the Mountain State.

Making his managerial debut for the Black Bears was Morgantown native and former major-leaguer Jedd Gyorko.

“It’s a little weird,” Gyorko said of managing. “It felt like it was time to run out on the field and play once the anthem was over. Seeing that side of the game and the strategy that’s involved is something that we’ll get better with.”

On the inaugural opening day of the newly-formed MLB Draft League, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers defeated the Black Bears 8-1 on the back of a five-run third inning. That disastrous top of the third was the final inning of work for Dowdell, who had all but cruised through the first two frames. A two-run home run by MV centerfielder Trent Anderson was the first blow to Dowdell, who was charged with all five runs in the third.

Down 5-0 after three innings, West Virginia’s hitters offered little resistance against the Scrappers’ pitching staff. MV starter Ben Belgrave pitched the first two innings, allowing just one hit, and was replaced by Cole Ayers and Jacob DeLabio, who combined for 5 1/3 scoreless innings. MV added a run in the fourth and two more in the sixth to go up 8-0.

WV’s first run of the game – and the season – came in the seventh inning when a flyball by designated hitter Caleb Taylor was dropped in centerfield, allowing Jason Thomas to score from second base. It was too little, too late, however, as The Scrappers picked up the 8-1 victory on Opening Day.

Despite a tough Opening Day, Gyorko said this first season in the Draft League is going to require patience from everyone involved.

“These kids are learning,” Gyorko said. “It’s tough for these kids to execute right now. We’re going to have to be patient, keep working with them, keep teaching them as much as we can and they’ll be fine.”

West Virginia and Mahoning Valley will play one more game at Mon County Ballpark on Tuesday before the Black Bears hit the road for the first time for two games at Frederick.

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Cody spent the last two years getting his master's degree in journalism from WVU. He graduated from Slippery Rock University in 2018 with a degree in digital media production. He was born and raised in Mercer, Pennsylvania.

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