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Mikey Kluska’s Walk-Off Home Run Salvages Series Finale Against Central Michigan

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(Photo courtesy of WVU Athletics)

A bad weekend for No. 23 West Virginia baseball looked like it might get even worse when Central Michigan was able to push the go-ahead run across home plate in the tenth inning of the nightcap on Saturday afternoon to take a 7-6 lead.

CMU had already taken the first two games of this weekend’s three-game series between the Mountaineers and Chippewas, including a 12-0 beatdown in game one of Saturday’s doubleheader. The Mountaineers had a glimmer of hope when center fielder Victor Scott walked to get on base in the bottom of the tenth as the potential tying run. That brought true freshman Mikey Kluska to plate for WVU, who already had multiple hits in all three games of the series.

The young shortstop delivered again, hitting his second career home run over the left-field fence at Mon County Ballpark and salvaging the final game of the series for WVU (5-5), 8-7. Kluska went 5 for 10 on Saturday and 7 for 14 in the series against CMU (5-5) with the walk-off home run, five runs batted in and two runs scored.

“I was seeing the ball really well all day,” Kluska said after the game. “I had a hit off that kid before on a pretty similar pitch, an inside pitch. It showed up [inside] again and it felt great, it was awesome.”

In game one of Saturday’s doubleheader, two big CMU innings doomed the Mountaineers in a 12-4 loss. West Virginia starter Jake Carr (0-2, 18.32) looked like he was regaining his 2020 form through the first two innings, allowing just two singles and striking out three.

The wheels fell off for Carr in the fourth, however. After recording the first two outs of the inning fairly easily, Central Michigan recorded eight-straight hits off of Carr, scoring five runs in the process. The inning only ended when WVU left fielder Dominic Ragazzo threw out a runner at home plate. That was Carr’s final inning of work. His final line was four innings, ten hits, five earned runs with four strikeouts and one walk. Carr has had a tough start to 2021, allowing multiple runs in all three of his starts and never pitching past the fourth inning.

“This was definitely his best outing, although nobody wants to say that,” WVU assistant coach Steve Sabins said. “He brought much better tempo, he commanded the ball better, he set the tone early throwing strikes and putting up zeros for three innings, it just unraveled on him.”

On the other side, CMU starter Andrew Taylor (2-1, 0.49) cruised through his outing. He allowed just three hits and three walks while striking out 11 Mountaineers across 6 1/3 scoreless inning. The Chippewas put the game away in the top of the seventh inning off of WVU reliever Trevor Sharp in his third inning of work out of the bullpen. That gave CMU a 12-0 lead and effectively put the game away.

WVU scored four runs in the bottom of the eighth, fueled by a pair of triples from Ragazzo and first baseman Nathan Blasick. It was too little too late, however, as CMU went on to win game one of the doubleheader 12-4. Carr took the loss and Taylor was credited with the win.

Sophomore Skylar Gonzalez started on the mound in game two and it was another tough outing for a WVU starter. Gonzalez allowed five earned runs in three innings of work, giving up nine hits and two walks. Unlike the first two games of the series, however, West Virginia’s offense was able to get going early and keep the game competitive. WVU scored in each of the first three frames, putting together a three-run bottom of the third to tie the game at 5-5.

In the third, Kluska hit a ball through the left side of the infield with the bases loaded to score Matt McCormick and Austin Davis. Blasick, a fellow true freshman, followed that with a sacrifice fly that scored Victor Scott. Each team scored one more run and the game went into a tehnth inning tied 6-6.

CMU scored the go-ahead run on an RBI double off of WVU reliever Jacob Watters. Junior Grant Frazier returned came back out for Central Michigan for a fourth inning on the mound but walked Scott and gave up the homer to Kluska and took the loss for CMU. Reliever Madison Jeffrey (2-0, 8.10) got the win.

West Virginia was missing upwards of ten players on the weekend due to COVID-19 protocols, starting seven underclassmen in all three games of the series. Other than Kluska, Blasick had two hits and an RBI Saturday, catcher McGwire Holbrook had two hits in game two, including his first career home run and Davis had three hits and scored twice.

Outfielder Jakob Marsee had six hits for CMU, with two doubles, three RBI and three runs scored. Zach Gilles also had five hits with an RBI and two runs scored.

WVU will have a couple of days off before hosting Morehead State for a two-game weekday series on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. Both games will be broadcast on ESPN+.

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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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