The West Virginia Mountaineers (13-15) and the UNLV Running Rebels (23-11) went into Sunday’s game with the Series tied 1-1 after their double header on Friday afternoon.
West Virginia started Braden Zarbnisky (1-1) for the second time this season and after a bit of a slow start, he kept the Rebels offense from getting hot.
The Running Rebels Bryson Scott led the game off with a single up the middle and advanced to third on a hit and run on a single through the left side by Dillon Johnson. Scott would score on a sacrifice fly to right field by Kyle Isbel to take the early 1-0 lead.
UNLV pitcher Garrett Poole (1-0) made his eight appearance and his third start of the season Sunday afternoon. West Virginia got their bats going early against the left hander.
The Mountaineers responded in the bottom of the first with Zarbnisky leading off with a hit up the middle and Marques Inman brought him in with hit a two-run home run over the left field fence giving West Virginia the 2-1 lead.
With the bases loaded in the third inning, West Virginia added another run after Kyle Grey hit a grounder to second base bringing in Ivan Gonzalez and he reached first base on a fielder’s choice. The Mountaineers only managed the one run after having the bases loaded with one out.
West Virginia Centerfielder Brandon White ended the top half of the fourth inning with a diving grab on a line drive by UNLV’s Grant Robbins and Max Smith could not beat the throw back to first base on a hit and run.
UNLV cut the lead to one (3-2) in the top of the fifth inning after an error on second baseman Kyle Gray mishandling a groundball and then threw the ball wide left scoring Seth Mullis.
The Mountaineers scored two runs of their own in the fifth. Zarbnisky led off the inning with a single and Hill reached on an error from UNLV second baseman Rodriquez.
Running Rebels manager Stan Stolte went to his bullpen to bring in Blaze Bohall to face Marcus Inman with runners at first and second.
Marcus Inman got his third RBI of the day with a line drive to left field and Kyle Gray singled up the middle for his second RBI. West Virginia headed to the sixth inning with a 5-2 lead.
UNLV started the sixth with Austin Anderson taking the mound. Andrew Zitel started the inning off with a hard hit to shortstop Bryson Stott, who had trouble handling the ball, and Zitel reached first base.
With Jimmy Galusky forced a walk, Brandod White tried to lay down a bunt, but it popped up, the base runners stayed, and after a diving attempt by Austin, he dropped the ball and they got the force out at third and first in a wild double play by the Running Rebels.
Zarbnisky got his third hit with a single to the left side of the field, advancing Galusky over to third base and Zarbnisky would immediately steal second base on the next pitch.
Ivan Gonzalez took advantage with two runners in scoring position with a shot over the middle of the field bringing in both runners.
The Mountaineers went into the seventh inning leading by five, but UNLV would keep the game close with a three run seventh inning.
West Virginia pitcher Sam Kessler started the sixth inning but found himself in trouble in the seventh after giving up two walks and a base hit the bases were loaded with no outs. Mazey would bring in Shane Ennis to clean things up for the Mountaineers and Ennis came out strong getting Stott out swinging.
An error on third baseman Andrew Zitel kept the inning alive for the Running Rebels and scoring a run in the process.
Ennis walked the next batter and with the bases loaded, that brought it another run.
Nick Rodriguez hit a grounder to shortstop Jimmy Galusky and he flipped it over to Kyle Gray to turn the double play, but Rodriguez beat the throw to first. That drove in the third and final run of the inning.
Ennis finished the game out not giving up another run.
The Mountaineers held on to the 7-5 lead to take the series (2-1) from the Running Rebels. This was a big series win for the Mountaineers and could possibly be a turning point for the rest of the season.
Coming into this series, UNLV was ranked 28th in the RPI and West Virginia was 26th. “We said at the end of the first month and a half when we go off the road and we are done traveling, we always want to be in the top 25 RPI wise. That always gives a chance once conference starts to be in the post season.” Said head coach Randy Mazey.
After all the traveling to start the season and a good series win, this could turn the corner for the Mountaineers and get on a run during conference play.
West Virginia takes on Penn State at PNC Park on Tuesday at 6:30 pm Est.