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West Virginia, Bolstered by Victor Scott Grand Slam, Downs Canisius 17-3

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – On a cool, breezy day in Morgantown, Monongalia County Ballpark opened its gates to 1,356 fans for the first time this season. The No. 25 WVU Baseball team (5-2) hosted the Canisius Golden Griffins (4-4) for the 2022 home opener, and proceeded to score the team’s fifth five-plus winner, winning 17-3.

After fifth-year righty Zach Bravo kicked off the game with two straight three-up-three-down innings, the bottom of the second opened the scoring up.

WVU’s sophomore catcher McGwire Holbrook singled after drilling the ball back at Canisius’ lefty Justin Guiliano, who bobbled the ball and allowed Holbrook a relatively easy trek to first. Freshman first baseman Grant Hussey advanced Holbrook to third thanks to a double. With Hussey on second and Holbrook on third, sophomote Mikey Kluska took to the batter’s box and his presence was felt immediately. He connected to soar a double into shallow center field and score Holbrook and Hussey to create a 2-0 Mountaineer lead with no outs. Redshirt junior infielder Dayne Leonard came up to bat next and seconded the double vibe, scoring Kluska on a wild pitch. With that, WVU took a 3-0 lead.

Bravo had another 1-2-3 inning in the third, and the Mountaineers began their side of the inning in prime position. Freshman infielder JJ Wetherholt lead off the inning with a solid single and advanced on a wild pitch when junior outfielder Victor Scott’s pitch went wild. When Scott connected, he flew out, but not before scoring Wetherholt from third for the fourth run of the ballgame.

It took until the fourth inning for the Golden Griffins to answer, but when they did, the 4-0 lead the Mountaineers had compiled rapidly shrunk. Bravo began the inning by hitting sophomore Max Grant. Mike DeStefano singled, and was followed by grad student Vinny Chiarenza’s double, which scored Grant from second and gave the Golden Griffins their first points, 4-1. Chiarenza’s performance was followed by senior Dylan Vincent’s two-out triple, which scored the former for the second run. Grad student, and former Mountaineer, Gibson Krzeminski came up to bat and promptly scored Vincent to cut the deficit to 4-3.

The fifth inning retired Bravo after four innings pitched, four hits, three runs, four Ks, and 17 batters faced; in his place: freshman right-handed pitcher Michael Kilker. He proceeded to save the Mountaineers with a 1-2-3 inning. WVU’s bats continued the hot streak in the bottom of the fifth. Wetherholt kicked off the inning with a single and advanced to second courtesy of a Scott sac bunt. Holbrook came up next and secured a walk. Canisius’ senior righty Brett Kochanski walked Hussey to load the bases with one out, and Kluska came in clutch with a single to score Wetherholt from third: 5-3 WVU. When Leonard took the batter’s box again, a wild pitch advanced Kluska to second and scored Holbrook from third to up the score to 6-3 WVU.

Kilker saved the Mountaineers with a four-batter sixth and brought the Mountaineers back into offensive mode.

When WVU, lead by sophomore outfield Braden Barry, took the base path, the score quickly transitioned into a dominant, runaway game. After Barry and Tucker claimed their bases on respective singles, Davis joined the group with a single of his own to load the bases with no outs. In Wetherholt fashion, the freshman smashed a ball to the left field wall that cleared the base path, adding a trio of scores to tally 9-3. WVU wasn’t quite done though. Scott smacked a home run to left center field which landed on the top of the ticket office, scoring Wetherholt to bump the score to 11-3.

Canisius’ comeback was mitigated in the top of seventh with sophomore righty Ben Abernathy on the mound, but the inning wasn’t free of activity. The bottom of the seventh included Scott’s second-straight homer, which just happened to be a grand slam to left center. A trio of freshmen, Tyler Cox, Alex Khan, and Wetherholt, crossed home and Scott capped the play off in a show of pure dominance that ratcheted the score up to 15-3. Four batters later, redshirt senior Vince Ippoliti did his part of knock in Hussey and sophomore Nathan Blasick on a single. The Mountaineers’ 17-3 lead would stand.

The eighth inning flew by with little action on either side, as both WVU’s redshirt junior righty Daniel Ouderkirk and Canisius’ senior righty David Yankowski eliminated their respective threats; freshman righty  Will Watson came in to close the game in a 1-2-3 inning and earn the Mountaineers their sixth win of 2022. Kilker earned his first win of this season with a pair of innings pitched and three Ks.

The Mountaineers will be back in action on Friday at U.S. Bank Stadium against Minnesota at 8 p.m.

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