West Virginia baseball obliterated UNC Greensboro in their doubleheader Saturday, outscoring the Spartans 32-3 across both games. A big day by Grant Hussey and more of the same from starters Blaine Traxel and Ben Hampton keyed the victories.
The sophomore paced the team with five RBI on the day and no other Mountaineer had more than three, as the team turned in a dominant performance throughout the lineup.
Hussey turned in a pair of two-run home runs, one pulled and one to the opposite field, and added another RBI with a slap-hit single the opposite way.
With defensive shifts still legal in college baseball, it’s critical for left-handed hitters like Hussey to show a threat of being able to hit the ball the opposite way so they can keep defenses honest. Take fellow lefty JJ Wetherholt, who said he eyes the left-center gap when hitting so pitchers are forced to use the entire strike zone against him.
Two-Way Player Showcase
West Virginia’s Kevin Dowdell and UNC Greensboro’s Caleb Cozart both hit home runs Saturday. Why does that matter? They’re both two-way players, having taken the field as both pitchers and position players this season.
Dowdell has contributed two innings this season out of the bullpen. He went 3-for-7 with a walk Saturday, playing three runs. Cozart’s homer was the lone run starter Blaine Traxel allowed in his complete game victory. He got the start in game one, but the Mountaineers were able to chase him after 2.2 innings pitched and four earned runs allowed.
There’s a vast difference between the skills needed to hit and pitch successfully, at any level of the sport. That’s why pitchers hitting dingers will never get old.
The Mountaineers starters went 14 innings, allowing just two runs and striking out 11. Traxel pitched the complete game, with Randy Mazey trusting him to stay in for the ninth even with a narrow three-run lead. Part of that was his stellar WHIP, as Traxel allowed an average of .77 baserunners per inning.
Hampton got to leave early, getting the win but departing after five with the game already out of reach, giving younger Mountaineers’ pitchers a chance at playing time.
Baseball starts and ends with the starting pitchers, literally in Traxel’s case. When they’re turning in performances like that, the Mountaineers will always have a chance at victory.
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