MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – On Wednesday afternoon, West Virginia (16-10) smashed its way into a 22nd consecutive mid-week home win streak with a 17-8 win over in-state rival Marshall (13-15-1).
The Mountaineers entered the game seeking a second season win over the Thundering Herd; in Huntington on Mar. 29, West Virginia beat Marshall 7-3, establishing a 51-25 series record and taking 11 of the last 12 meetings.
Today was no different.
Redshirt sophomore right-handed pitcher Tyler Strechay got the start for the Mountaineers and kicked off the game with a quick-dealing 1-2-3 first inning. Marshall’s sophomore righty Chad Heiner took the mound in the bottom of the first, recording a similar outing to retire a restless Mountaineer side.
The first batter of the Thundering Herd’s second inning presence, sophomore clean-up guy Ryan Leitch got his bat on a Strechay pitch and sent it flying over the left field wall to put the first run on the board.
The Thundering Herd added a concerning trio of additional runs in the top of the third inning to lead by a decisive 4-0. WVU head coach Randy Mazey exchanged Strechay for righty Michael Kilker, two batters later, Kilker for Trent Hodgdon, and two batters later, Hodgden for Zach Ottinger to begin what would grow to a total of 10 different WVU pitchers throughout the game.
Down 4-0 in the third inning, West Virginia sophomore Mikey Kluska and redshirt junior Tevin Tucker sent a duo of groundouts into the infield, but two outs on the scoreboard was familiar territory for the Mountaineers. Senior Austin Davis singled to open the Mountaineer base path, and was quickly brought home courtesy of a JJ Wetherholt double. Marshall escaped the inning soon after, but the Mountaineer momentum had already begun.
Ottinger threw a 1-2-3 fourth to retire any offense the Thundering Herd had been attempting, opening the floodgates for his Mountaineer teammates to kick things up a notch.
Sophomore McGwire Holbrook singled first to place a Mountaineer runner on the base path, but Braden Barry watched a line drive be converted into a double play, and suddenly, WVU was back in two-out territory. Holbrook advanced to third with a double off the bat of redshirt junior Dayne Leonard, and the Mountaineers were in scoring position… and score they would.
A second-straight double, this time from Kluska in the 8-hole, sent Holbrook and Leonard home to cut the deficit to 4-3. The bottom of the order’s Tucker came in clutch, next, with a triple that scored Kluska and tied the game. WVU’s lead-off man Davis then singled, bringing Tucker home and effectively taking the lead 5-4; Davis stolen his 53rd career bag and positioned himself perfectly for Wetherholt to lay a double down the left field line to score him. Five runs on five consecutive hits, and seven fourth inning hits later, the Mountaineers had completely changed the game’s momentum, and they were in no position to let up on the gas.
Marshall head coach Jeff Waggoner pulled Heiner after the sixth unanswered run, allowing the sophomore 3.2 innings, 11 hits, six runs, one K, and 52 pitches. In came senior Louis Davenport, but the Mountaineer bats made quick work of him as well. Davenport walked junior Victor Scott, and Scott scored two batters later on a Holbrook single that also scored Wetherholt. The Mountaineers ended the fourth with an 8-4 lead, and the scoring onslaught ceased in the fifth, sixth, and the top of the seventh.
Two MU pitchers later, sophomore lefty Cody Sharp took the mound for the Thundering Herd, and the Mountaineers seized the opportunity, batting through the lineup a time and a half. Sharp walked freshman Grant Hussey to start the inning and hit Holbrook to place runners on first and second. Wild pitch madness ensued. With freshman Tyler Cox at the plate, Sharp sent three straight wild pitches into the backstop, scoring Hussey and sophomore Ben Abernathy and upping the score to 10-4. Sharp was exchanged for righty Nicholas Weyrich, but the freshman did little to contain the Mountaineer small ball attack.
Leonard singled to right field, placing Cox on third; the latter would score on another wild pitch for an 11-4 lead. The former would head home next off a Marshall throwing error. Kluska, who had walked, also came home from a Davis single to up the score to an indisputable 13-4. The Mountaineers would tack on one more run, with two outs, in the seventh; the seventh Marshall pitcher and No. 13 of the game, freshman righty Cam Rokisky came in with the bases loaded and one out. He walked Abernathy to walk in Davis and add a 14th Mountaineer run to the board.
WVU tacked on three more back-to-back runs in the eighth off Rokisky. The pitcher hit Vince Ippoliti, walked Alex Khan, and hit Evan Smith to load the bases with a single out. Marshall walked a second run in after surrendering a walk to Wetherholt, and subsequently, another to Scott. Ippoliti and Khan scored, respectively, and the Mountaineers lifted the score to 16-4. Sixteen runs on sixteen hits. Smith came home off a Nathan Blasick flyout to cap the WVU scoring at 17-4.
On defense, the Mountaineers unleashed redshirt junior righty Daniel Ouderkirk, and he allowed a single and back-to-back walks before scoring freshman Avery Lee on a Geordan Blanton fly-out. Ouderkirk was pulled in the game’s final pitching change, in lieu of freshman righty Deaton Oak, who had only pitched in Feb. 18’s Central Michigan win before today. Marshall juniors Travis Sankovich and Luke Edwards walked and singled, the latter of which scored freshman Eddie Leon to cut the deficit to 17-6.
The Mountaineer defense could have closed down the game there, but a fielding error at second scored Sankovich and sophomore Zach Gardiner, a 17-8 final.
The Mountaineers etched a 100th victory into Monongalia County Ballpark and a 17th into the 2022 season. The team’s 17 runs came off 16 hits, while Marshall’s eight came from 10 hits and a four-run ninth inning. Seventeen pitchers were collectively used; WVU’s Ottinger got the win (2IP-3H-0R-2K), while Marshall’s starter Heiner earned his second loss of the season (0-2).
This reprieve from Big 12 play only lasts until Friday, when the now-17-10 Mountaineers welcome the 16-12 Baylor Bears to Morgantown. First pitch of the series opener is set for 6:30 p.m.