Takeaways: WVU Baseball Opened Home Season with Win Thanks to Freshmen Pitchers
West Virginia baseball won their first home game of the season on Wednesday, beating the Canisius Golden Griffins 8-1. Their young pitchers turned in exciting performances while their veteran teammates stood ready to back them up when needed.
True Freshmen Hold Steady
A pair of first-year pitchers held their own for the Mountaineers against Canisius: starter Gavin Van Kempen and reliever Maxx Yehl. Both pitchers hail from the state of New York, so perhaps they had something to prove against the Buffalo school.
Making his first collegiate start, Van Kempen allowed a home run to the first batter he faced. He then rebounded for 5.2 innings in which he didn’t give up another run.
Eight of the 17 batters retired with Van Kempen on the mound came via strikeout.
Yehl went 1.2 innings across the seventh and eighth, allowing two baserunners and taking West Virginia most of the way home.
Dayne Leonard: Traffic Control
Catcher Dayne Leonard played a phenomenal game all around. The redshirt senior threw out three of four would-be base stealers, helping the young pitchers to work around traffic on the bases and shutting down rallies.
Leonard drew a walk and added an RBI on a hit that came close to leaving the ballpark on the fly, settling for a ground-rule double instead.
Second baseman JJ Wetherholt said in an interview last week that the Mountaineers aren’t a team predisposed for towering hits. That’s part of where the Mazeyball identity comes in, focusing on getting runs by any means possible instead of selling out to swing for the fences.
Whether that was modesty on Wetherholt’s part or a statement of fact, it wasn’t the case on Wednesday. The Mountaineers hit a pair of home runs, including Wetherholt’s two-run blast in the first inning that ended up being the game winner. Center fielder Braden Barry added a three-run shot in the sixth that put Canisius away, and both Wetherholt and Leonard hit ground rule doubles that came close to leaving the park.
It could’ve been a boost from finally playing at home, but after West Virginia slugged three home runs against Richmond on Sunday, it’ll be interesting to see if they continue to tap into their power stroke.