The West Virginia Mountaineers (10-7) fell 6-5 to the Campbell Camels (8-10) in the series finale on Sunday. The Camels, playing the home team at Jim Perry Stadium in Buies Creek, NC., took the series’ first meeting 2-1 from West Virginia.
The slow-paced game didn’t produce action until the bottom of the second inning, when Camels Lawson Harrill and Drake Pierson put out back-to-back triples. Right fielder Harrill scored the first run of the game, and DH Pierson came the remaining 90 feet with the help of a groundout off the bat of left fielder Logan Jordan. Campbell came out stringing positive momentum together, up 2-0 early, and the team would remain that way.
Junior right-handed pitcher Jacob Watters sat the bottom of the second and third innings down quickly, allowing the Mountaineers, or rather sophomore Braden Barry, to reenergize the game in time. After a lead-off walk from redshirt junior catcher Dayne Leonard, the left fielder smashed a home run to left field; Barry’s first home run of his career tied the ball game at two. WVU could have gotten the go-ahead run as well, but ended the inning instead with bases loaded.
In the top of the fifth, the Mountaineer offense was shut down; Camel reliever, lefty Jake Murray, sat West Virginia batters down in eight pitches, and the game continued to squeak along. WVU made a call to the bullpen in the bottom of the sixth, in hopes of squandering another Camel score. Unfortunately, the Big South’s Camels were too far ahead.
WVU reliever, freshman righty Chris Sleeper started out the inning, but Camel batters Jarrod Belbin and Harrill strung two singles together before Sleeper dinged Drake Pierson and loaded the bases with no outs. WVU head coach Randy Mazey called out his third pitcher in fifth-year righty Chase Smith, hoping to minimize the damage. Even with a veteran on the mound, WVU allowed a single, scoring Belbin, and a walk which brought home Drake Pierson and bumped the Camel lead up 4-2.
Onto the seventh inning, when the Mountaineers began a slow comeback. Freshman Grant Hussey singled and advanced to second. He would eventually score from there courtesy of a single off Leonard’s bat. Now only down one, 4-3, the Mountaineers and Camels traded off scoring opportunities. The bottom of the seventh saw two more Campbell runs.
West Virginia’s fourth pitcher of the afternoon, sophomore righty Carlson Reed relieved Smith, but quickly allowed crafty Campbell base runners to get themselves into scoring position. He walked All-American shortstop Zach Neto, and clean-up guy Belbin did just that. He doubled to left field, bringing Neto home and upping the lead to 5-3. Belbin wasn’t done showing off his talent and managed to steal home during the next at-bat.
West Virginia, now down 6-3 in the top of the eighth, had something to say about that deficit. With two outs, redshirt junior shortstop Tevin Tucker sent a ball over the left field wall, good for a solo home run and a 6-4 lead closer. WVU would close the score even more in the top of the ninth; they rallied the bases loaded with no outs, and a single from Barry sent Hussey sprinting home for what would eventually become a 6-5 final.
With the loss, West Virginia (10-8) will return home on Wednesday to host Marshall at 6:30 p.m. The Mountaineers found five runs on eight hits today, while the Camels gave up five errors and scored six runs on as many hits. Camel pitcher Murray got the win, and Neto, a utility player, picked up the save after 1.0 inning pitched and one K. Sleeper earned the Mountaineer loss and moved to 1-4 on the season.